The impact of politics on sexual and reproductive health and rights
Volume 27 Number 54, May 2019
Submission deadline 31 October 2018
RHM is compiling a themed issue to be published in May 2019 on the impact of politics on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The purpose of the issue is to assimilate and highlight the consequences of and interconnections between political activities, systems or change on SRHR – whether at global, regional, state, or local levels, and at their intersections, especially in low- and middle-income settings.
The definition of politics is diverse and wide-ranging. Put succinctly by Lasswell in 1936, politics is about ‘who gets what, when and how’1, indicating its close association with power and influence. Politics has many facets. It can be an effective means of expanding evidence-informed action, representation, voice, agency, community engagement, co-operation, and opportunity for progressive change. Perceptions of politics can be negatively and emotionally charged; associated with ideology, dishonesty, self-interest, deceit and the unresponsiveness of institutions. Political activities and their impacts occur at different levels: they may be momentous global events, or they may take place locally, with effects at regional, national or local level. Politics may cause problems, solve them, or both, at the same time. Unintended and unforeseen consequences may result. People and population groups can be differentially affected by political actions in many ways: influencing laws and rights; determining war or peace; defining the distribution of information, wealth and health care; or shaping social cohesion2,3. Political decisions or expressions can have consequences impacting on the lives of individuals, including women and girls, and their ability to exercise and access SRHR. Institutions (such as multilateral organisations or non-government organisations) can also be affected, with changes to funding, established donor mechanisms, programmatic areas and capacity of organizations to engage with SRHR.
We live in a world of constant flux. The quickly changing political contexts of recent years have influenced SRHR discourse, access to rights, funding, services and lived experiences, and will continue to do so. In this call for papers, RHM will accept reviews, research articles, perspectives, commentaries and personal narratives which discuss and highlight positive, negative or mixed impacts of global, regional, national or local politics on SRHR. Submissions which make connections between these different levels will be of interest, for example, how global or regional politics can impact on the national and local. Papers submitted may identify political determinants of SRHR, document different forms of activism or resistance, explore interactions, trace pathways for change, or describe short term, intermediate, long term or ultimate outcomes.
Examples of relevant topics in SRHR related to contemporary political events include:
- The shift towards right-wing and/or populist politics occurring across many countries and regions
- The power of the #MeToo social media movement against sexual assault and harassment
- Reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule prohibiting US funding to foreign organizations that offer abortion services or information
- Demographic transition in China and its U-turn from a harsh one-child policy, to plans for boosting birth rates
- The recurrence of widespread violence in Congo, with rape and sexual abuse used to intimidate in a context where lack of public services and transgressions of SRHR committed in the wake of the war in the 1990s remain unaddressed
- The role of political activism and civil society in Senegal, with documented successes in the control of HIV/AIDS, despite its low-income status as a country
- The rise in popularity of right wing politics in Costa Rica after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that gay marriage should be legalised
- Protests in Iran by women against compulsory covering of their heads in public
The relevance of today’s politics on SRHR is clear, but not always well-documented. In this RHM collection, we aspire to compile and generate a diverse range of perspectives and evidence to inspire debate, inform intervention and effect change that will lead to better lives for people. Politics will determine whose SRHR are protected, when universal health care and respect for rights can be realised, and how it will be achieved.
We would like to remind potential authors of articles that in addition to our regular calls for themed papers, RHM also accepts other papers related to SRHR on an ongoing basis. Some of these may later be brought together or listed as key topics. We accept a wide range of article types, from full research reports to short personal perspectives, letters and book reviews. Please see instructions for authors at: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?journalCode=zrhm20&page=instructions
- Lasswell H. Politics: Who Gets What, When, How. London, Whittlesey House, 1936.
- WHO. Sexual health, human rights and the law. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/sexual_health/sexual-health-human-rights-law/en/ June 2015.
- Miller AM, Gruskin S, Cottingham J, Kismödi E. Sound and Fury ‒ engaging with the politics and the law of sexual rights. Reproductive Health Matters, 2015; 23: 46, 7-15, DOI: 10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.006