|Understanding Reproductive Health: A Guide for Media (CMFR - UNFPA, 1996, 49 p.)|
Reproductive health covers a lot of issues that need to be talked about as openly as possible. These issues have to be debated, researched, discussed in the public forum. Eventually they have to be addressed by government and NGOs alike.
The media play the critical role of bringing these issues out in the open. Essentially, these issues revolve around:
a) Medical. These include clinical trials and such as clinical trials and experimentation among the poor women in developing countries like ours; reproductive technologies such as the vaccine against pregnancy, RU-486 or the abortion pill and what these mean for women; the increasing numbers of women who have undergone unnecessary caesarean sections; the effects of pesticides on pregnant women workers in huge plantations reflected in the increasing abortion and infertility rates among them;
b) Social. These include trends such as fundamentalism on the rise and its effects on women; the role of organized religions like the Catholic Church on reproductive health policymaking and implementation of programs; the legitimacy of sexual orientation and lifestyles and the states recognition of these as crucial to the removal of discrimination and stigmatization; sexual violence like rape, incest and wife-battering; and
c) Political. These include the impact of international agencies which provide loans and aids on national and local policies, of priority setting not in tune with the needs of citizens and constituencies; the impact of international funding on NGO activities, causing stiff competition for access to funds which shape and direct their programs and their activities.
The list is long. And these are just some of the issues which need to be coaxed out of the closet. Their current low visibility in the public forum and the public agenda does not reflect their importance and significance in the conduct of public affairs and the direction of national development.
Is it because they have become so commonplace? Is it because these are unexciting, especially if one compares these to the ambush of a colonel in a busy street on a hot summer morning? Ambushes, after all, are not daily occurrences. And reproductive health issues may not be as dramatic as ambushes.
While these issues may not rate the same scope and attention in the public arena, they are intimately related to fundamental aspects of both personal and public life. Reproductive health issues may be marginalized because women have yet to establish their clout as political actions who determine the course of public affairs.
But it is in this area that life takes shape and form. To relegate reproductive health to the periphery of policy, legislation and political agenda creates an imbalance that affects the integrity and foundation of human life.