Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) championing the course of gender advocacy in Ghana think that men could contribute immensely towards the drastic reduction of HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality if only they could offer adequate support and show more love, care and stop perpetuating violence against their wives.
They stressed that men’s involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality is key towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal 5, because women alone cannot achieve sexual and reproductive health without the cooperation and participation of men who can go in for multiple sex partners leading to the contraction of STDs and also deciding the number of children a woman should give birth to whether she is capable or not.
Despite the massive awareness being created about the harmful effects of domestic violence, it is believed that deeply entrenched socio-cultural practices and systems held by men still remain which thus give them the edge to perpetuate violence against women.
Speaking at a day’s conference organized by the Ghana chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Ghana) in Tamale, Ms. Saratu Mahama, Programme Coordinator of FIDA-Ghana, said men’s health status and behavior affect women’s reproductive health, thus involving men increases their awareness, acceptance and support to their partners’ needs, choices and rights.
She quoted statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying “over one-third of all healthy-life lost in women is due to reproductive health problems, compared to 12% for men” stressing that, men who are the decision makers play a dominant role in couples’ fertility decisions, family size and other significant issues related to sexual and reproductive health.
Ms. Mahama also observed that, all methods of family planning and most methods of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV prevention were traditionally labeled either as male-only or female only methods. “More attention should be paid in identifying to what extent each one of the methods requires co-operation and support of both sexes and its implications on the health and sexual relationship of both partners”, she opined.
A representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which sponsored the conference, Miriam Iddrisu, said the agency beliefs that if men are presented with relevant information they could become valuable allies in addressing reproductive health issues, from maternal mortality to violence against women.
According to her, UNFPA sought to increase men’s sense of ownership over programmes that promote gender equity, equality and women’s empowerment.
Ms. Iddrisu noted that, many men feel it is their right to refuse to use contraception, to allow their female partners to use it, or even to discuss family planning. These refusals she observed could lead to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, and maternal death or disability.
Some men, she said may feel entitled to beat female partners who simply raise the issue of family planning or HIV prevention, saying “indeed, gender-based violence is a major contributor to the spread of sexually-transmitted infections including HIV and poor reproductive health and other health outcomes for women”.
Meanwhile, the conference which was under the theme: “Male involvement in promoting gender equality and reproductive health of women” was aimed to ensure constructive male involvement in gender equality, women’s human rights, reproductive health programs and the introduction of concrete and effective strategies to involve men reproductive health issues from a gender-equity perspective; and call for male commitment to implementing these strategies to ensure gender equality.