Since the 1948 World Conference on Human Rights, reproductive rights have been acknowledged as an integral part of Universal Human Rights. These rights are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as:
‘The right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health’.
While reproductive rights in their entirety are extremely important to global health, this blog series will focus on the subset topic of family planning, specifically contraception and access to it.
So, what exactly is contraception?
Contraception is defined as any method that intervenes with reproduction from acts of sexual intercourse¹. This definition includes all the pills, barriers and devices that aim to prevent pregnancy through different mechanisms of action. In a later post, we’ll cover the different methods of contraception that exist. Despite the relative ease and convenience of these methods, many women still do not have access to them.
Why is having access to contraception so important and why do we need to advocate for it?
Contraception allows women and couples to have control over when and how many children they have. Lack of access to contraception may have significantly negative outcomes for not the only maternal health, but also for societal factors like poverty and gender equality. This will be explored further later on in the blog series.
Although the global use of contraception has increased from less than 10% to 64% over the last 40 years, growth in the past decade has waned and plateaued. Developing countries have been left behind with only 40% of women having access to contraception in these countries.
Through building awareness, we aim help make this 100% access and make family planning a reality for all.
As seen in this graphic from the UN Department for Social and Economic affairs, there is great disparity in contraception use and prevalence across the globe. For example, in certain regions in Africa, use is below 20% compared with 70% + of developed countries.
The World Health Organisation estimates that for every 10 women worldwide, one has an unmet need for contraception. Again, there is discrepancy between regions. Certain regions in Africa (such as Western Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa) have a high unmet need compared with other regions of the world.
Despite past gains, these numbers are currently being threatened by international policy. Family planning services and thus contraception access has dropped down the list of international development priorities. This, combined with changing political atmospheres has resulted in a decrease of foreign aid being diverted for these programs, which has a negative impact on worldwide provision of contraception to those who need it.
Here’s a video that explores past and current view on birth control and contraception around the world.
- Hubacher D, Trussell J. A definition of modern contraceptive methods. Contraception. 2015 Nov 1;92(5):420-1.