Sexual and reproductive health is a human right to which all people should have access. However, is it the women’s or the men’s responsibility to use contraceptive methods?
Having sexual relations with a monogamous or polygamous partner(s) that can conceive children is a decision of both or more parties in the relationship. Therefore, the responsibility is shared.
According to the Organization of American States (OAS), in most of the Americas, the vast majority of people start their sexual life in their adolescent years. Nearly 90% of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean report knowing at least one contraceptive method, but between 48% and 53% of sexually active youth never used contraception. Among those who did use contraception, approximately 40% of them did not use it regularly. Therefore, it is crucial to ask ourselves if the use of contraceptive methods is something not to be planned by partners or people with a sexually active life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.9 billion women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in the world in 2019, of whom 1.1 billion need family planning. Of these, 842 million are using contraception, and 270 million have an unmet need for contraception.
Following the previous information and the social mindset, it has been taught that women should be the ones to take responsibility for not getting pregnant or for taking care of the pregnancy on their own. At this point, it is essential to remember that while women can only have one pregnancy a year, men can impregnate a woman 365 days a year. However, there are only a few contraceptive methods for men, while women assume the hormonal or barrier methods to avoid conceiving.
So how can this burden that has historically been placed on women be leveled? The first thing is for men to assume the reality that in deciding to have sex, there is not only enjoyment but also a responsibility not to conceive and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases/infections. Similarly, women must decide their desire to conceive or which method best suits their bodies.
Secondly, the cost of contraceptive methods should be equitable, and the medical check-ups that the couple needs to make decisions regarding a responsible sexual life. It must be considered that equity is also demonstrated in the hormonal load (if this is the method chosen) in the woman. This entails other health issues, both physical and mental. Therefore, a couple’s responsibility must be sexually, effectively, and monetarily, allowing for healthy sexual development.
Also read: THE MYTH OF USING THE MORNING AFTER PILL
Sexual life should not be prohibited or taboo in our society. On the contrary, it should be normalized to the point that access to contraceptive methods and disease prevention reaches schools, universities, and jobs. Access to contraceptive methods is a responsibility of the State, especially in Latin America where, according to UNFPA, 18% of annual pregnancies are in children under 20 years of age.
Finally, couples should have uncomfortable conversations that lead them to investigate, consult, and decide how they want to show their sex lives, which would trigger an equitable division that allows them to enjoy sex responsibly.