Right Here Right Now-Bangladesh Platform
Sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) knowledge sharing
In our country, there is an extensive dearth of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)knowledge and services among the gender diverse population.The adolescent and young people are kept away from sex education let alone be introduced to SRHR.However, comprehensive sexual education (CSE)and SRHR knowledgeimpart critical information and skills for life. These include understanding bodies and boundaries, relationships and respect, diversity and consent.CSE policies and programmes should be formulated based on equity that is all adolescent and young people should have access to CSE regardless of their age, gender, disability, and gender identities, marital status and socio-economic status.
Focused advocacy for the promotion of the rights of people with different gender identities is required at present both in law and practice to address the SRHR needs.
The treaties that protect the rights to life, health, non-discrimination, education and information include the ICESCR, the ICCPR, the CEDAW, the CERD, the CRC, the CRPD. These rights are interpreted to require SRHR education in schools by UN treaty monitoring bodies. In Bangladesh, the constitution is the supreme law of the land and guarantees the rights of all to equality and non-discrimination.
The Population Policy (2012) refers to creating awareness and the provision of counselling services on "family planning, reproductive health, reproductive tract infections and HIV/AIDS."The National Adolescent Reproductive Health Strategy (2006) in Bangladesh calls for 'improving services for married adolescent girls' and highlights the "role of education, employment and empowerment which is acknowledged as a necessary condition for improving their reproductive health".
Unfortunately, there are no references related to CSE in the National Education Policy (2010). Although there is an SRHR education curriculum being developed by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), it is not sufficiently comprehensive, based on the seven elements on CSE. The teacher training for this is also is not very adequate.
In Bangladesh, the RHRN initiative is working to improve access to youth-friendly services in public health facilities and meaningful youth participation in SRHR interventions to address the knowledge gaps. The platform aims to create a conducive policy environment through multi-level advocacy drives so that youth and adolescent clusters have RHRN is a strategic partnership consisting of seven organizations and is operating in 11 countries in the world. The Bangladesh Platform comprises of ten organizations.
Since the formal launching in Bangladesh on 18 October 2017, RHRN has played an active role in fulfilling its aim. They have worked with young people who generally face many significant barriers to enjoying their SRHR. Under the RHRN program, 120 youth advocates in 8 divisions of Bangladesh were trained for 3 days to increase their capacity to conduct advocacy on SRHR issues in their respective communities .
Over last one year, these advocates worked at their own region and identified different cases, advocacy to solve cases. The youth advocates on SRHR were recognized with awards in different categories according to their work-area divisions for their innovative and dedicated advocacy recently, on 10 March 2019. BRAC Education Programme and RHRN Bangladesh Platform organized 'National Level SRHR Knowledge Sharing' at BRAC CDM Savar, Dhaka, which was attended by around 150 youth advocates as well as representatives from different human rights organizations.The event was graced byMD. Ainul Kabir,Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs; MD. Moshiuzzaman, Member (Curriculum),NCTB and Selina Hossain, Writer.
Right Here Right Now-Bangladesh Platform observed "Celebrate 16 days' activism against SGBV" with active participation of young people focusing on SRHR, SGBV, child marriage, early pregnancy and other diverse issues around SRHR throughout. Consultation meeting was organized with Media Personnel on Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) facilitating the importance of SRHR Education along with some practical essence of SRHR issues. Several other initiatives have been done by the platform in recent times.
The need to break the existing taboo in Bangladesh regarding sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) cannot be denied. Everyone has at some point of their adolescence period faced stereotype and conservative mentality with regards to their sexual orientation. It is high time the chains are set free and change is brought.
The efforts need to be combined with sufficient and scaled-up sexual and reproductive health-related program interventions and must be prioritized as the components for a successful response to establishing SRHR.
Prepared and compiled by Raihan Rahman Rafid, Sub- Editor, Law & Justice Desk