SRHR is key to achieving equal legal rights and access services for women

They recommend adoption of specific measures to address the disadvantages women face

Ensuring access to quality sexual health services, eliminating harmful practices as well as realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) is the key to achieving equality for girls and women, panelists have said.

They discussed about deconstructing reductionist approach of maternal health, fault line in public health, success challenges and way forward of the Bangladesh MR-MRM program, climate change, rights to health and sexual transmitted infection at a day-long conference in Brac Centre Inn on Saturday.

The Bangladesh Health Watch (BHW) a citizens' platform working as a watchdog to promote the health of Bangladesh citizens organized the conference on “The Emerging Challenges to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Bangladesh”.

The conference was planned to pay tribute to the memory of Adrienne Germain, a global champion of women's rights and health and a friend of Bangladesh, who passed away on May 19, 2022.

SRHR is selected as the theme of the conference to pay tribute to the memory of Adrienne Germain as she was a pioneer in developing SRHR approach of programming in health and population policy and program.

All the papers presented in the conference underscored the need to recognize the socio-economic determinants of women's health.

They recommend adoption of specific measures to address the disadvantages women face so that they are enabled to realize their equal legal rights and access services on an equal footing with men.

Rounaq Jahan, chair of Advisory Group of BHW, presided over the conference.


Paying tribute to Adrienne Germain, Rounaq Jahan talked about Adrienne Germain's pioneering role in the 1970s and early 1980s in promoting girl's and women's rights and health through funding support of innovative government and non-government projects and programs to improve maternal and child health and increase opportunities for women's employment and income.

Three papers were presented in the first session on Women, Girls, and SRHR in Bangladesh.

Kaosar Afsana, professor at Brac James P Grant School of Public Health, in her paper “Women at the Margin: The Reductionist Approach to Maternal Health” asserted that although Bangladesh has seen a decline in maternal deaths over the years, social determinants, which impede further progress have been overlooked.

Sabina Faiz Rashid, dean and professor at Brac James P Grant School of Public Health spoke on “Fault Lines in Public Health: Young Women's Lives in Dhaka Slums” and asserted that gender, sexuality, and the human dimension of health need to be discussed in order to have contextually relevant programs and policies for young women living in slum environments.

Halida Hanum Akhtar, senior associate at Johns Hopkins University and Altaf Hossain, executive director of Association for Prevention of Septic Abortion, Bangladesh (Bapsa), in their paper “The Bangladesh MR-MRM Programme: Successes, Challenges and Way Forward” said that to achieve the SDG 3 target by 2030, Bangladesh needs to reduce unwanted pregnancy and its consequences on women's lives.

Halida Hanum said Bangladesh has in place a well –designed Menstrual Regulation (MR) program, post abortion care (PAC) services, emergency contraceptive pills and community level awareness programs through social communication activities.

Judith Bruce, former senior associate of The Population Council outlined several priorities including early and comprehensive support for the rising generation of girls -beginning in early adolescence in the communities characterized by persistent child marriage and poverty as well as those experiencing acute shocks of climate change and conflict.

Tasnim Azim, adjunct professor at Brac James P Grant School of Public Health in her paper explained that sexual and reproductive health are inextricably interlinked, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) affect both.

Sajeda Amin, senior associate at The Population Council, in her paper titled “The Pathway of Climate Change Impact on SRHR” expressed that there is an elevated risk to maternal health in coastal regions from increased salinity that increases the risk of eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, higher risk of child marriage and elevated risks of insecurity leading to sexual violence and rights violation as a result of displacement to urban slums.

Sara Hossain, executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), in her paper “Knowing and Using the Law to Shape Women's and Girls' Rights to Health”, suggested that there are laws that still discriminate against rights of women and girls to equality, not allowing women to participate freely and responsibly in decisions and processes that affect their lives.