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Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day is organized to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health (SRH). SRH encompasses dimensions of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity (World Health Organisation).

To maintain one’s sexual and reproductive health, people need access to accurate information and the safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception method of their choice. They must be informed and empowered to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, HIV/ AIDS, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. And women must have access to services when they decide to have children and can help them have a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery and healthy baby.

Key SRH issues include:

Puberty: Adolescence is an appropriate time to build healthy habits and lifestyles relating to SRH, as it is the transition from childhood to adulthood and is associated with physical and psychological changes. They are also vulnerable to human rights abuses, in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing. Health services should be adolescent friendly.

Access to modern contraception: Women and young girls must have information and access to services that can help them to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

Pregnancy and unsafe abortion: When girls and women do not have access to quality services and information they are at risk of an unintended pregnancy; almost half of all pregnancies are unintended and approximately half of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion. If abortion is unsafe it can put women’s and girls’ lives and well-being at risk. Unsafe abortion can be prevented through:

  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • Access to affordable contraception
  • Safe abortion care

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS: STIs and HIV/AIDs have a profound impact on individual’s and couple’s sexual and reproductive health and well-being. It is therefore imperative that all people have access to sexual and reproductive information, education and communication to prevent STIs and HIV.

Gender-based violence: Violence is a violation of a person’s rights and also puts women, girls and already vulnerable populations at heightened risk of HIV infection and unintended pregnancy, among other health and social issues.

Influence of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on sexual behaviour:

  • Information relating to sexual activity- ICTs and social media have enormous information on sexuality and relationships, however, these technologies can also provide access to inaccurate and inappropriate information.
  • Cyberbullying- Cyber harassment can lead to disorders.
  • Sexting- The private exchange of self-produced sexual images via cell phone or the Internet is new high-risk behaviour among youth, which should be addressed in SRH.

Poor mental/emotional health: Emotional and mental health problems are also associated with increased rates of unsafe sex, sexually transmitted diseases and early sexual experiences.

Alcohol, tobacco and drugs abuse: A high prevalence of risky sexual behaviour is reported in association with substance misuse, as alcohol and drug consumption may impair decision-making.

Interventions related to SRH

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has launched several programmes under the umbrella of RMNCH+A to provide health services for sexual and reproductive health.

Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram launched in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a health programme for adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years, to provide preventive, promotive, curative and councelling services with routine check-ups at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilisation Kosh) (JSK) is an autonomous society of the Ministry. It has a toll free helpline 1800-11-6555 for replying queries on reproductive health, family planning and infant health.

School based sexuality educational programmes are most effective for creating positive effects, including increasing knowledge about different aspects of sexuality, behaviours and risks of pregnancy or HIV and other STIs.

FAQs (frequently asked questions) about sexual and reproductive health can be accessed from www.jsk.gov.in/

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