Improving our understanding of the impact of stigma on the right to sexual and reproductive health
BTC, Espace Jacqmotte, rue Haute – Hoogstraat 139, 1000 Brussels
Worldwide, stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion, refraining large groups of people from enjoying their right to “the highest attainable standard of health”. Stigma is a process of devaluing individuals and communities based on real or perceived characteristics that distinguish them from other members of society. These characteristics can be attributed to differences such as, among others, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, behaviour, disability or other health conditions. Stigma can, apart from causing direct physical and mental suffering, affect people’s self-esteem, disrupt family relationships and impair their social functioning.
Stigma is a powerful, though often invisible, barrier that keeps people from seeking services that can improve their health or even save their lives. Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is one of the sub-areas in health where the impact of stigma cannot be neglected. Stigma and discrimination remain the hallmark of the HIV and AIDS response in the post-2015 era. Stigma surrounding vulnerable – and often criminalised – populations – such as sex workers, men having sex with men or injecting drug users – discourages them to test for HIV or other STIs, to seek care, to disclose their status to health providers or to adhere to treatment. Stigma surrounding young people’s sexual behaviour and sexuality hampers their access to appropriate information and services. For many women, seeking family planning services is a stigmatising act. Stigma is also a major contributor to social, medical and legal marginalisation of abortion and abortion services. The strong stigma surrounding infertility probably explains why this issue remains largely unattended in the global health debate.
This seminar is meant to improve our understanding of the impact of stigma on the sexual and reproductive health of vulnerable populations who often lack the power to raise their voice and claim their rights, and to pave the way for future reflection on how best to address stigma in our interventions within, but also outside, the health care sectors.
Presentations & take away messages
- Looking at stigma and SRHR – Take away message Marleen Bosmans, Expert SRHR-HIV, BTC Brussels, Belgium
- HIV/STI prevention targeting invisible MSM and other populations in stigmatized contexts, Jérôme André, HF Prévention, France
- Stigma surrounding young people’s sexuality – Take away message Sara De Meyer & Kristien Michielsen, ICRH – UGhent, Belgium
- Tackling abortion stigma and supporting stigma-free services for young people in Benin – Take away message Abel Kader Avonnon, IPPF Africa Region, Benin
- Stigma and infertility – Take away message Jan Goossens, The Walking Egg, Belgium
- Stigma and HIV – Take away message Lazare Manirankunda, ITM, Belgium
The seminar is a joint initiative of the Be-cause Health Working Group SRHR and BTC, the Belgian Development Agency.