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Various health issues tend to affect women across the globe. In the last few decades, these issues have gradually proved to be very important given that they not only affect women, but also affect men and the entire society.
However, even with concerted efforts, insecure abortion and childbirth still lead to the death of women. Most women seek the intervention of birth control to manage their sexual and reproductive lives. On the other hand, millions of people live unhappily due to infertility.
Other issues such as infection of the women reproductive tracts affect many women globally. The universal agreement is that women reproductive health is impacted by the correlation between different compounded factors (Hull et al., 1996).
Consequently, children and men experience the impact of these issues either directly or indirectly.
Issues affecting woman reproductive health
Every human being is entitled to his or her opinions, convictions, emotions, apprehension, and worries concerning sexuality and reproduction.
Despite having rights, beliefs relating to reproductive health are often influenced by personal experiences, relations, religion, peers, and media (Liamputtong, 2000).
The influences are in fact socially constructed. By extension, these perceptions affect the health of women in different ways. The perception of the society concerning the reproductive health of women often influences the subject of social policy in many societies.
Reproductive health incorporates the conditions in which the reproduction cycles are realized in the whole body, psychological and communal well-being. It is not the sheer lack of disorder or illnesses of the reproductive cycles.
For most women, the ability to be in good reproductive health means having the capacity to reproduce children successfully (Liamputtong, 2007). It also entails giving birth to healthy infants, survival of the child, and retaining the mother’s good health.
However, this begins with safety throughout the pregnancy and child delivery. It also includes the freedom to regulate fertility devoid of health hazards. The right to perform and take pleasure in harmless sexual relationship is also a critical element of reproductive health.
In order to experience good reproductive health, women deserve the right to healthy sexual development. They should be able to decide the number of offspring they want to have and the spacing between them.
They should be free from illnesses and be able to receive healthcare when needed. In addition, women should be free from cruelty and injurious practices including domestic violence and stereotyping (Cusack & Cook, 2010).
They should have the capacity to decide without being discriminated or intimidated. However, this is not always the case given that many women experience reproductive health issues that often make life unbearable for them and those around them including men and children.
Women often face hindrances in receiving reproductive care services. Studies show that this is particularly the case in the field of family planning. The characteristics and rate of recurrence vary (McClelland & Liamputtong, 2006).
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The variation depends on various aspects such as ethnicity, religious affiliation, physical settings, age and sexual orientation. Women with disability are likely to have challenges in accessing a practicing gynecologist.
Similarly, a woman who lives in the countryside may face challenges in having well-timed emergency contraception.
Violence against women
A huge percentage of women undergo violence and its negative effects founded on their gender and inequality in the society (Sherris, 2002). Women who experience corporeal, sexual or mental violence undergo numerous health predicaments often in silence.
They are characterized by poor physical and psychological health, as well as physical injuries. Consequently, they consume additional therapeutic resources than those who are not abused.
Gender violence against women often emerges from the fact that they have limited societal and financial power. Violence against women is likely to occur in societies where gender functions are firmly identified and implemented.
In such cultures, masculinity is strongly linked to hardiness, male admiration, and dominance. At this point, reprimanding children and women is acceptable with aggressiveness considered as an ordinary avenue for resolving disagreements.
Poverty, male wealth-control, and relationship unsteadiness are also sources of the intimate partner violence.
Women who experience violence are unlikely to inform anybody about their health position. When such women are physically injured, they are likely to suffer in silence and eventually die from injuries. Even when the status is reported, some injuries may be fatal.
When such women escape from physical harm, they definitely become traumatized. Such women are characterized by harmful health conducts including drug and alcohol abuse.
Based on this, women develop persistent problems including headaches, and neurological problems including seizures and heart problems (Sherris, 2002).
Families of women victims who undergo violence may suffer financially in situations where such women are not able to perform their duties. Children may suffer from malnutrition when the mother fails to meet their nutritional needs.
When children are old enough, they may end up being criminals thereby affecting the entire society (Liamputtong, 2007).
Gender-based brutality affects the reproductive health of women. Indeed, women who go through intimate partner violence are likely to experience gynecological setbacks. These may include infertility and urinary tract diseases. Other problems may entail fibroids, and sexual dysfunction.
Caesarean Section (CS)
The rate of CS has been increasing worldwide particularly in the first world countries. Epidemiological proof concerning the effect of CS on maternal morbidity has been documented (Keally et al., 2010). The practice of CS emerges from various factors.
These include clinical and non-clinical factors. However, the non-clinical factors involve the avoidance of lawsuits by caregivers, the consideration of danger, medical practice, and maternal dread of pain and birth.
Although CS plays a central role in preventing maternal mortality, it is related to the rising rates of maternal morbidity (Shrage, 2003). These include possible deadly complications such as re-hospitalization, sepsis, and numbing impediments.
Medical conditions may necessitate the conduction of emergency CS. However, after changes in maternal age, the prevailing clinical complications, and demographic aspects, the emergency CS quadruples tend to comprise of life threatening incidents.
Regardless of the kind of CS, complications after operations are estimated at 36 percent.
It is apparent that issues in women reproductive health have far-reaching implications not only on women, but also in the society as a whole (Selin, 2010).
First, poor women reproductive health may lead to mortality. Complications that arise during pregnancy and child delivery are identified as the primary causes of morbidity and mortality amidst women aged between 16 and 50 years (World Bank, 2013).
Maternal death, which is closely linked to women and reproductive health, is approximated to kill more than five hundred thousand women annually. From every woman who dies from maternal mortality, about thirty experience the incapacitating harm.
The stereotyping of women as channels of reproduction and as mothers for a long time has been activated, imposed, and continued through state Act, legislation and rules. Stereotyping disallows or limits the accessibility to inexpensive contraceptives, services, and information.
Anybody who opposes abortion seeks to perpetrate the stereotype that women are susceptible and feeble hence require protection in order to shore up the endeavor to abolish abortion.
The ideology that women lack the ability to make decisions is often implemented through legislations that inter alia permit aggressive sterilization of women (Cusack & Cook, 2010).
Stereotype as a major health reproductive issue
Several social, pervasive, and persistent stereotypical ideals influence women accessibility to reproductive health. In fact, accessibility to healthcare services is one of the areas where women face serious challenges particularly when it comes to family planning.
The challenges facing women vary depending on the nature and frequency with which they affect women (Oxaal & Baden, 1996).
Other factors that may pose increased challenges are sexual orientation and personal attributes including age, religion, as well as the wealth and education background. In other instances, the geographical location is an important factor to consider.
Whereas challenges that women face are varied, stereotyping remains to be one of the major social challenges that need inquiry.
Webb (2003) claims that this could be attributed to the fact that gender stereotyping have persisted despite studies and awareness campaigns that have been carried out.
Stereotypes particularly in women have been perpetuated by various policies and strategies, choreographed legal system, and customary practices that deny women access to reproductive health.
For instance, those who oppose divorce have portrayed women as weak and vulnerable hence require security.
In addition, women have been portrayed as poor decision-makers. The notions have been founded on various laws and policies that have resulted into practices such as forceful sterilization.
However, stereotypes can also be useful particularly where one gets security owing to the familiarity accruing due to stereotypes. Various studies over the years indicated that stereotypes have gross effects on women. In one way or the other, stereotype is not problematic.
Nonetheless, it only becomes challenging when the individual traits are violated. When stereotypes ignore the basic human rights of women and create a barrier between men and women, then it becomes a problem.
Feminist theory suggests that stereotypes that create gender hierarchies where men are portrayed to be superior to women are dangerous and should not be allowed to perpetuate within the societal norms (Webb, 2003).
Feminist theory suggests that when individuals critically look into the laws, norms, policies, strategies, and practices that perpetuate negative stereotype that look down upon women, it becomes apparent that we should deal with the discriminations that affect women.
Further understanding of how negative stereotype affects women reproductive health is important in dealing with women accessibility, availability, and quality of healthcare services as well as information.
In case there is need to eliminate the discrimination of women in the reproductive health, then a critical evaluation of gender stereotype has to be undertaken.
In fact, not only does discrimination needs to be eliminated but also other violations that hinder reproductive health in women must be eradicated (Oxaal & Baden, 1996).
The first step in eliminating gender stereotype is through understanding its origin via naming. Naming exposes gender stereotype practices, explores its foundations, the contexts, and ways through which it is perpetuated in the society.
Once the negative gender stereotype has been identified, it becomes easy to evaluate the effects on female reproductive health and the manner in which it violates women rights (Webb, 2004).
In this context, gender stereotype is the conception of roles and responsibilities that should be performed by either gender particularly women. Gender stereotype also encompasses some of the individual attributes that are perceived to belong only to either gender.
From this viewpoint, gender stereotype presumes some attributes, behaviors, roles, and responsibilities that are specific to either men or women.
In fact, the concept is applied in the acknowledgment of certain attributes and roles belonging to the social group of either men or women (Oxaal & Baden, 1996).
The characteristics of gender stereotype include being pervasive and perpetuating. Gender stereotype cuts across cultures and its existence takes time to change. As such, negative stereotype is destructive and has dire consequences particularly on the targeted group (Cusack & Cook, 2010).
Feminist theorists argue that negative gender stereotypes over the centuries have been directed towards women. As a result, women have faced serious discriminative practices, abuses, and violence that have affected their social and economic wellbeing.
In particular, negative gender discrimination directed towards women has led to poor reproductive health (Cook et al., 2010). For instance, negative gender discrimination has led to low accessibility to maternal health care, maternal mortality, and morbidity, as well as increased infant mortality.
Addressing these issues must begin with addressing the negative gender stereotypes directed towards women.
Gender stereotype varies based on country, race, social status, and economic capabilities. Studies indicate that gender stereotype towards women is low in developed countries compared to the developing countries.
In addition, the economically stable women face little discrimination due to gender stereotype. For example, whites are less stereotyped compared to blacks (Cusack & Cook, 2010). All these factors determine the level of effect stereotyping has on individuals.
Poor African women face most burdens of gender stereotyping in relation to the rich urban elites. In other words, the effect of negative gender stereotype depends on various factors.
The effects are also replicated in the women reproductive health. Studies indicate that gender stereotype is one of the most important issues that affect woman reproductive health (Cusack & Cook, 2010).
Feminist theorists predict that relieving a woman from gender stereotype will reduce women burden by half.
The continuous establishments of unfavorable attributes on women are the result of the accruing chronological laws and practices linked to sexual health services.
For instance, women are required to seek the approval of their husbands and other family male leaders when they are to be infantilized (Cook et al., 2010). In fact, it is evident that some national legislatures make laws that consider women as mere caregivers in households.
In addition, there are provisions that restrict the roles of women to their duties at homes. Women without children while pursuing the request for contraceptives are considered as rebuffing the support of the government as well as exasperating the common good.
There are several occasions where adjudicators have used exorbitant female stereotypes. For example, there have been cases of women being denied the participation in the legal career based on the fact the best place for women is the family field.
In essence, the principal duty of a female involves childbearing and being a mother (Cook et al., 2010). Moreover, several legislations have subjected women to banning of abortions and only allowing females considered by the physicians to be in the best interests of a woman’s health.
It is evident that male members with the support of religious leaders usually endorse the legislations disallowing abortions. The passages of such laws reveal the antagonistic labels to females’ state of health and decent action.
The relaxations of abortion decrees are gradually rising in most states. These lead to the approvals that there are cases where women health statuses surpass the country’s concerns as far as keeping pregnancies are concerned.
Conversely, opponents of abortions are increasingly developing new arguments based on the idea that females have enhanced shelter from the injuries associated with abortions. In other words, women are unable to recognize such harms personally.
Due to the shield offered to the doctors by the jury from the law making organs, women independence in accessing reproductive wellbeing services is disrespected.
For example, the application of the restrictive stereotyping by healthcare service providers and women requesting for abortion procedures through voicing the ethical values indicate how women are perceived to be immoral and bigoted (Hadley, 1996).
Many international pacts relating to the domestic rules disallow prejudice on grounds of sexual characteristics. However, discrimination continues to exist based on gender when accessing health services in many countries even though the laws outlaw intolerance on such grounds.
Women face various challenges in their reproductive health. These range from violence to the discriminations accruing due to gender stereotype. However, gender stereotype has emerged to be the most important factor affecting women reproductive health.
Gender stereotype leads to the indirect discrimination that severely affects women reproductive health. As indicated, eliminating gender stereotype improves the woman reproductive health by half.
However, doing away with gender stereotype requires the concerted effort from all the societal stakeholders. The elimination must begin by changing the laws and policies that indirectly perpetuate gender discrimination.
In addition, the society must appreciate the roles women play in social and economic development in order to improve their reproductive health.
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