☰ Menu

Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Medias’ participation

Stephania Aldana Cabas - GFMER Coordinator for Colombia

The media is crucial in disseminating information about sexual and reproductive rights. Besides, radio, TV, newspapers, and social media involve developing comprehensive plans to create content that is reliable, truthful, and effective, allowing it to reach diverse audiences and prompt them to reflect on sexual and reproductive rights, their inclusivity, how to recognize if their rights are being affected, and what actions individuals should take in case of rights transgressions.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organized workshops in various countries, including Laos, to achieve this objective. In 2021, journalists, officials, and government representatives engaged in discussions to promote women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Simultaneously, the media, through various channels, can shed light on issues such as early pregnancy in adolescents, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, early marriage, forced sterilization, forced virginity examinations, coerced abortion, and lack of sexual education. In such cases, the communication industry bears an ethical responsibility to be the voice that reveals occurrences governments might overlook.

Over the last three decades, global organizations have conducted studies, sounding alarms and demonstrating that an annual investment of US$10.60 per person in programs related to sexual and reproductive rights could yield substantial health, social, and economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization (2023), this includes a significant decrease in unintended pregnancies (68%), unsafe abortions (72%), and maternal deaths (62%), along with enhanced rights for women and girls and increased participation in education and the labor market.

Case Studies in Latin America

The management of sexual and reproductive rights by the communication industry varies across countries. For example, a study conducted on six well-known media outlets in Argentina from 2008 to 2009 revealed that abortion was a significant subject in their news agenda, with visibility linked to cases involving complaints, judicial intervention, and social mobilization (Santoro, S., & Chaher, S., 2010).

Research conducted by ONG Action Aid and Alianza por la Solidaridad in Bolivia in June and July 2013 found that the majority of news about women had police or criminal content, with only a tiny percentage addressing these issues as socially problematic or linking them to public policy (La Asociación de Comunicadores Sociales Calandria, 2014). Additionally, an article from Latam Journalism Review in 2022 highlighted challenges faced by journalists in Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador, particularly regarding the topic of abortion.

Despite these challenges, seven Latin American countries have incorporated regulations into their constitutions to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of their populations. However, countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador do not approve of abortion practices, putting women at risk in cases where pregnancy poses a threat to the mother's life (Division for Gender Affairs of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) & Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2021).

Africa's Case

Before 2004, the coverage of reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa was not a significant topic in the media agenda. However, in Kenya, in 2006, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) conducted activities to promote mass media content on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), focusing on building a network with the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) (Oronje et al., 2011). This center aims to improve the quality and accuracy of SRHR reporting and increase the visibility of African journalists covering these topics in different media (European Union et al., 2021).

Asia's Case

In Asia, mass media significantly influences people's behavior. A study by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Indonesia between 1999 and 2000 found that their media information dissemination projects positively impacted reproductive health coverage in the Indonesian press (US Agency for International Development et al., 2001). Another research from 2014 to 2017 demonstrated that mass media exposure in television, radio, and newspapers positively influenced maternal healthcare utilization in South Asia, addressing maternal mortality and healthcare inadequacies (Kaniz, F., & Lariscy, J. T., 2020).

In conclusion, mass media holds the potential to disseminate information related to sexual health and reproductive rights, making it a crucial tool for promoting SRHR, particularly in diverse global contexts.