Gender inequality and poverty still hunt many parts of the world. Yet most sexual and reproductive health programs ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that prevent from making healthy decisions and that contribute to their vulnerability too poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, exposure to HIV, sexual violence and undesired or unsafe pregnancy. Many young people are also denied access to information and support that would enable them to protect their own sexual and reproductive health. Nepal is not exceptional. Lets take a closer look to sexual and reproductive rights of young people in Nepal.
- The median age at first marriage among women is 17.5 years and among men is 21.6 years.
- 17% of adolescent between 15-19 years are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
- Only 14.4% of current married adolescent girls are using a modern method of family planning and the unmet need of family planning is 41.5% .
- 53.5% of adolescents between 15-19 years know about a place that provides abortion and only 39.8% know that abortion is legal in Nepal
- Out of a total of approximately 63,500 people living with HIV 5.5% are adolescents. (Source: Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2012)
A third of the total population of Nepal is young people (10-24) year old. This group faces different challenges and barriers with regard to fulfilling their sexual and reproductive health needs and rights (SRHR). Lack of adolescent friendly sexual and reproductive health information and health services, a cultural value given to early marriage and early pregnancy, gender imbalances and the limited role of decision making of girls and young women within a family, social stigma regarding HIV & AIDS and traditional values. Because of these reasons young people in Nepal are at risk of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV and unsafe abortion as well as making them vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence.
Nepal has ratified various international instruments that commit to young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights: Convention on the Rights of the child (1989), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women (1979), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), International Conference on Population and Development (1994), Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) and the Millennium Development Goals (2000).
Effective policies and programs can only address the stark realities of young people and help them explore how social norms around gender and sexuality shape their own attitudes and behaviors. Education and communication efforts can begin to transform social norms and stigma that often stand as barriers to young people’s improved SRHR. Engaging young people in the design of, and in advocating for, improved policies and programs can create more solutions and engage new leadership that contribute to long-term impact and change.
In Nepal the National Reproductive Health Strategy issues in 1998 which included adolescent reproductive health as one of the essential elements and mentions that need to develop appropriate reproductive health programs for adolescents. The National Adolescent Health and Development Strategy issues in 2000 directly targets adolescent health with the objective of increasing the availability of and access to information on adolescent health and development. likewise the National youth Policy issues in 2010 states that youth shall be supported to have a safe and positive sex life, while providing them with education on sexual health safety and freeing them from all kinds of sexual violence.
What Nepal actually lacks is Youth Involvement:
It is not possible to achieve sustainable results without listening to a large population. The meaningful presence of young people is vital to achieving any development targets in the present context. So, Nepal needs to involve young people meaningfully, particularly marginalized youth including young women, at all levels of programs and policies design, implementation and monitoring as well as evaluation. Apply strategies to ensure youth adult partnership that facilitate meaningful participation of young people on decision making bodies and knowledge transfer to a new generation. Also develop and apply mechanisms to ensure the participation of young women and other marginalized groups who are otherwise difficult to integrate into program and policy decision making bodies and also involve young people in planning youth friendly sexual and reproduction health strategies and services and in designing comprehensive sexuality education curricula to meet their needs. Youth participation must be non-discriminatory, equality- based and transparent.