Breaking the Taboo: Women’s Sexual Health Matters
The topic of women’s sexual health is one that has often been relegated to the sidelines, tucked away in a corner and shrouded in a veil of shame or taboo. However, it is high time that we break this stigma surrounding women’s sexual health and recognize the importance of prioritizing it on the global agenda.
First and foremost, women’s sexual health encompasses a range of issues that affect women’s physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. These include but are not limited to sexual violence and harassment, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual dysfunction, and reproductive health.
Sexual violence and harassment, unfortunately, remain rampant in many parts of the world, with women and girls being particularly vulnerable. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence, most often at the hands of a partner. This has far-reaching consequences on their physical and emotional health, and it is crucial that we raise awareness and advocate for stronger laws and policies to prevent and respond to these forms of violence.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are another major concern, with around 376 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis recorded each year. These infections can have serious health implications, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even increased risk of HIV transmission. At the same time, many women lack access to comprehensive sexual health services, counseling, and information, further exacerbating the problem.
Sexual dysfunction, or the inability to engage in satisfying sexual activity, can also have a significant impact on women’s quality of life. This can be caused by a range of factors, including hormonal changes, menopause, medication, and psychological issues such as anxiety or depression. Effective treatment options are available, but these often go unrecognized or unaddressed due to a lack of awareness or societal stigma.
Last but not least, reproductive health is a fundamental aspect of women’s sexual health that is often neglected or treated as a political football. Safe and accessible family planning services are essential for women to exercise autonomy over their bodies and life choices, and to prevent unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal mortality. Yet, many women worldwide lack access to these basic services, leading to preventable deaths, injuries, and social and economic consequences.
Breaking the taboo surrounding women’s sexual health matters is, therefore, a matter of priority and urgency. We must work to change societal norms that stigmatize women’s bodies and sexuality, and create safe spaces for women to seek care and support. This requires education, advocacy, and policy changes at all levels, from families and communities to healthcare systems and international bodies.
The good news is that progress is being made, with more women and organizations speaking out and advocating for women’s sexual health. But there is still a long way to go to ensure that every woman, regardless of their background, has access to comprehensive sexual health services and can lead a fulfilling and healthy life. Let us continue to break the taboo, and prioritize women’s sexual health matters.