Access to sexual and reproductive health services for persons with disabilities : a case study of Clarendon home for persons with disabilities, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Mavuso, Sibusisiwe Siphelele.
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Sexual and reproductive health are integral parts of the health and well-being of every human being, however they remain sensitive and controversial issues, particularly when they concern persons with disabilities. Within the legal framework, sexual and reproductive health is recognized as basic human rights. They are also essential components of good health and personal development. Making sure that persons with disabilities have access to sexual and reproductive health services contributes to the fulfillment of their sexual and reproductive rights by providing them with more choices that potentially best suit their reproductive health needs. South Africa has one of the most progressive and liberal sexual and reproductive health laws and policies in the world, yet persons with disabilities still face major barriers in accessing these services. In fact, their sexuality has been largely overlooked or actively suppressed and in turn, their reproductive rights denied. With this background information, the study aims to shed more insights into the experiences and perspectives of persons with disabilities in accessing sexual and reproductive health in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Following the rights-based approach it assesses their awareness of sexual and reproductive health services and determines the factors that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive health services. The findings from the sample of 16 persons with different types of disabilities suggest that access to sexual and reproductive health services is complex and involve a variety of factors. The majority of respondents revealed that sexual and reproductive health services are a big part of their lives. However, there seemed to be a huge gap between their needs for services and their right to access these services. The general consensus was that persons with disabilities face challenges and multiple barriers to access services. Significantly these barriers are not raised by the disability itself but are related to specific contexts or instances of persons with disabilities trying to access services. From the discussions it was apparent that respondents‟ rights to be treated with dignity and to access sexual and reproductive health services is often overshadowed by social isolation, discrimination and other stereotypical assumptions that the society holds about the sexuality of persons with disabilities. Often, persons with disabilities are percieved as not sexually active hence information on sexual and reproductive health matters is not widely available in formats accessible to them. Health providers appeared surprised that person with disabilities will require assistant with family planning services and they are not given choices about suitable birth control methods rather often the nurses suggested that they terminate their pregnancies or to be sterilized. This reveals a need to address access to sexual and reproductive health services for persons with disabilities especially, through public health facilities in South Africa.
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