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Sexual Health: What women face to access services in Nigeria

By Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye Sunday, March 7, 2021 - 09:20
Over time, some women and girls in Nigeria have had challenges accessing sexual health services. A list of combining factors like education, prevailing laws, religion, custom and tradition have denied women and girls the right to optimum sexual care.

Lack of access to adequate sexual health services can lead to life-threatening consequences like death. 40% of women in Nigeria suffer from the implications of unsafe abortions, 86% of married women in the reproductive age do not use modern methods of contraception etc. This suggests that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to creating systems for women in Nigeria that enable them to access sexual and reproductive health services, hassle-free. 

 

Understanding sexual health?

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing concerning sexuality. It entails the absence of disease, healthy approaches to sexuality, and sexual relationships which are free from discrimination and coercion. It is fundamental to the overall well-being of a person as it affects their physical and emotional welfare. When viewed from a positive outlook, sexual health can be maintained through comprehensive education and information, access to a good and affordable health system, a good environment, and laws that promote sexual rights and health.

 

Sexual health and the Nigerian woman

Worsening numbers prove that Nigerian women and girls are deprived of basic sexual health methods as indications show that women are more vulnerable and susceptible to HIV and other related STIs than men and can me infected faster. (Rural) women go through unhealthy menstrual conditions, have incorrect or no access to sexual health information, and are deprived of reproductive choices due to laws and traditions. Facts suggest that girls between the ages of 15-24 face the highest risk of contracting HIV through heterosexual contact. This risk of infection is increased by the low social status of women in Nigeria, coupled with the high rate of the child bride system, forced marriage, and the denial of women the right to negotiate safe sex methods.

 

Challenges to accessing sexual health services

In Nigeria where there is a high level of gender bias and gender inequality, women continue to lack the basic tools and information they need for good sexual health.

One of the factors that challenge the lack of qualitative sexual health amongst Nigerian women is the disparity in economic status. Compared to men, women are significantly at an economic disadvantage. This disadvantage leads to poverty which in turn forces the women to be dependent on a man. This dependency leads to exploitation and denial of good sexual health practices. The economic gap is also widened by a lack of comprehensive education where women are unaware of better choices and are restricted to little or no economic opportunity.

Secondly, religion and culture permit practices of gender inequalities that permit the man, church, elders to make choices concerning the woman's body. In many Nigerian settings, religion and culture create barriers to sexual health such as condom use, contraceptive use, abortion rights, etc, and certain cultures support harmful practices like child marriage, female circumcision, menstrual exile, and discrimination amongst others.

Lack of good infrastructure also adds to the challenges of accessibility between women in rural areas and health providers. Seeking the necessary counsel and receiving the right kind of information because difficult with the bad road network, unequipped clinics, and poor communication.

Attitudes of health care workers are also barriers to a woman's sexual health. A lot of health workers lack patience, are unfriendly, and judgemental to women with health care challenges. This attitude creates an unsafe condition for women to seek the help they need.

 

How to improve access to sexual health services in Nigeria 

With these high risks, it is important for clinical intervention and health policies to be put in place so that women will no longer suffer from gender disparities but enjoy much-needed care. To do this, there should be increased health care access and outreach backed up with education, empowerment, and government laws that recognize the woman but reinforces her autonomy to make decisions concerning her body. 

The government should also demonstrate commitment by increasing sexual health funding, making sure that rural areas are not left out and sexual health care like products, vaccination, drugs are subsidized to an affordable rate.

Friendly centres should equally be made available including special needs centres to carter for women with disabilities should be equipped with trained staff.

Everything points to the fact that there should be increased access to sexual health rights, fair treatment, education, and more. It is important for women to be taught about their bodies without fear, cultural taboos or any form of discrimination. From the early onset, girls should be taught that their bodies are entirely normal and be encouraged to ask questions.

Do you have more questions about having accessing sexual health services, especially in this pandemic? You can reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and we will respond.

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