People with disabilities not getting sexual and reproductive health services – UNFPA

ECONOMYNEXT – The majority of people with disabilities are being marginalized when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services (SRH), a drawback common both globally and in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) said.

Addressing a panel discussion at the 9th International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World (ICBD), UNFPA representative in Sri Lanka Ritsu Nacken said that many people with disabilities are shunned from SRH due to financial, social, cultural and psychological reasons.

The discussion saw the participation of health and sociological sector professionals who expressed their opinion on this matter of concern.

“Fifteen per cent of the world’s population experience some form of disability and 2011 census indicates that about 8.7 per cent of the total population in Sri Lanka are persons who have disabilities. This is not a small number,” Nacken pointed out.

“Sri Lanka ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in February 2016. The country also has a national policy on disabilities. Yet social stigma exists,” he said.

“For example, health care providers may hold inaccurate stereotypical views specifically about women and girls with disabilities such as assumptions that they are not sexually active,” Nacken said.

Prof Athula Kaluarachchi a Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Colombo said that as to whether society recognizes that people with disabilities should have equal rights as others is a question.

He called on society to rethink this issue. “Very often society looks at these people with disabilities as people who do not have sexual rights,” he said.

“Do they have access to family planning, whether they have the right to have a child are the important aspects we need to open our eyes and look at differently in the current situation,” Kaluarachchi said.

The Professor stressed that people also need to be mindful that disabilities differ from person to person and therefore the individual needs will also differ.

“It is important for us to recognize that disabilities are of very different kinds. Disabilities vary from physical to intellectual. Therefore, we need to recognize similar kinds of services will not satisfy the needs of each of these people,” the Professor added.