What does it mean to be pro-choice for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)?

Early this month our director Dr. Odhiambo David was in Kigali, Rwanda for the 65th International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) World Congress which was hosted by the Rwanda Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (RPSA). The conference ran from 31st July to 8th August through which there were plenary sessions, workshops, the general assembly and a public health campaign.

On 6th August, he took part in a workshop on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) which was facilitated by the Health Development Initiative (HDI) which works on SRHR issues in the country. During the workshop he was mandated with the responsibility of presenting on an abstract based on our work as Ryculture Health and Social Innovation. This was an abstract on the Pro-choice movement with regard to SRHR.

The pro-choice movement from its advent was founded on a need to grant women freedom and autonomy over their bodies. It became a movement for emancipation of women considering for a long time women had been denied the power to decide and act on the choices they made. With regard to SRHR, the focus was shifted to address issues on abortion for which the wave was fueled by the demand to have abortion legalized and women be granted the free-will to choose whether they want to abort or not. This has been opposed inadvertently by religious groups under the confines that abortion is comparable to murder as it involves destruction of a life.

Through the discussion on rethinking pro-choice movement, his presentation covered the aspect of choice which is the ability to decide between two or more alternatives. This decision should be made from a point of information.

On basis of freedom, freedom comes with responsibility for which for every privilege an individual is granted they should be willing to be held accountable for the same. This means that for every choice one makes within the confines of their liberties, they should be willing and ready to face consequences of the choices.

When rethinking pro-choice movement in the confines of SRHR therefore, the focus should be on ensuring that women are granted the freedom to make all the choices that pertain to their sexuality. Pro-choice should be delinked from demands for abortion and instead be focused on comprehensive sexuality of a person. In this case, it should focus on empowering women to be able to make all choices as pertains their sexuality i.e.

  • whether to have sex or not to have sex
  • who to have sex with
  • when to have sex
  • how to have sex
  • whether to use contraceptive methods or not,
  • which contraceptive method to use
  • whether to use condoms or not.

These choices should then be coupled with improved access to the SRHR materials & services that women need to exercise their choices.

He reiterated that until the day we address sex as a comprehensive matter that needs everyone’s involvement we may never realize the very goals we desire of zero new HIV/AIDs infections, eradication of STIs, zero incidences of unsafe abortions leading to mortality and population control among others.

We are not pro-choice when we have ladies giving in to sex in order to put food on the table, when ladies have sex in order to afford sanitary towels, when women have no control on whether they will use condoms during sex or not, when women lack information on contraceptives, when women can’t access contraceptives they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies and lastly when women are not empowered to lead their lives as autonomous individuals with liberties to choose on what they want with their lives.

We may not live in the ideal world we wish for but we can make it our aspiration to create that world for future generations. – Odhiambo David

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