Many South Africans don’t know what their sexual and reproductive health rights are, which is why this simple guide is so important for men and women of all ages. Do you know what the Constitution says about your reproductive health rights? If not, this is for you. And if you do know the answers, please share this guide with others who may be in the dark. It’s critical for all South Africans, of every age and gender, to know their basic sexual healthcare rights.
What does the Constitution say about reproductive health rights?
The Constitution of South Africa protects the rights of all people to make their own decisions regarding reproduction (having children), and gives them security in, and control over, their bodies. This means it is every person’s own decision whether or not to have children.
The Constitution recognises that both women and men have the right to know about contraception, and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of contraception of their choice. Protecting yourself against an unwanted pregnancy is your right, and you can decide what methods you want to use.
Women have the right to access appropriate healthcare services that ensure safe pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, the Constitution recognises that the decision to have children is fundamental to a woman’s physical, psychological and social health, and that complete access to reproductive healthcare services must include family planning and contraception advice (guidance in protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancy), termination of pregnancy (legal abortion), and sexual education and counselling programmes and services.
Lastly, the Constitution recognises that the State is responsible for providing reproductive healthcare to all citizens, and that the State must also provide safe conditions under which people can exercise their reproductive health rights without fear or harm.
Why are sexual and reproductive health rights in South Africa a paradox?
Even though South Africa is one of the few societies in which individuals’ sexual and reproductive health rights are protected, 30% of South African women still don’t know that they have a right to safe, legal reproductive health services, including abortion. Abortion is legal in South Africa and has been since the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed in 1996.
So why do so many women still seek out the services of dangerous, illegal abortion providers?
The reasons vary, but they range from desperation and ignorance (i.e: not knowing where to go for a safe abortion, or even that abortion is legal), to stigmatisation by their communities, perceived judgement by staff in medical facilities and fears about confidentiality and/or cost.
How does Marie Stopes help?
Marie Stopes’ mission is to improve quality of life in South Africa by providing safe and affordable sexual health services to as many people as possible.
Our services include: helping to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates; safe and legal abortions; decreasing unwanted pregnancy through effective contraception advice and methods, and helping people to detect and manage HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cervical cancer. We constantly strive to expand our services to reach as many South Africans as possible, including you.
Our services: Confidential, affordable and judgement-free
If you or someone you know requires sexual healthcare services, contact Marie Stopes now. All of our services are carried out by caring and qualified staff who will protect your dignity and your privacy, and provide the highest quality services at prices you can afford.
Find your nearest clinic now or learn more about our safe and legal abortions, contraceptive advice, medical male circumcision, pap smears, STI screening and management and HIV testing and counselling.