For the first post on my new blog, I will not reach out too far and in fact, go with what has captured the imagination of the media of late: Zika virus. As it emerged that women who have been exposed to the mild viral disease in course of their pregnancy are at risk of giving birth to children with microcephaly, national policy makers came out with statements asking women to refrain from becoming pregnant till the thing blew over. An article in The Lancet covered this issue and brought to fore the massive inequities that exist in women’s healthcare needs and reproductive (health) rights – some issues which were ironically uncovered by a disease that went on to earn the status of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern!
The Lancet has run a short article with a big message. It is titled “Zika virus outbreak: reproductive health and rights in Latin America”. (1)
The Zika virus crisis offers a belated opportunity for governments to begin to close gaps in sex education and access to contraceptives, safe motherhood, safe abortion, and programmes to prevent discrimination and exclusion of people living with disabilities. If governments do not take this opportunity, the Zika virus will not only be a public health issue, but also exacerbate existing gender inequalities and social injustice.
Whether this will see any translation remains to be debated but it is, without doubt, an opportunity to tilt the scales a little bit in favor of providing women with the reproductive rights and services they deserve.
- Roa M. Zika virus outbreak: reproductive health and rights in Latin America. Lancet [Internet]. Elsevier; 2016 Feb 27 [cited 2016 Feb 15];387(10021):843. Available from: http://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140673616003317/fulltext
- Image Credits: BBC News