Women’s health strategy aims to end taboos
Posted: Wed, 20th Jul 2022
The government aims to end taboos on women's health issues including menstruation and contraception in its new strategy.
The government today published its woman's health strategy following a consultation last year.
The National Secular Society responded to the consultation urging the government to ensure women's health is prioritised over religious concerns. It raised reproductive rights, violence against women, and relationships and sex education as examples where the imposition of religion may have a negative impact.
The strategy document indicates the government has responded to some of these concerns:
- They aim for "high-quality, evidence-based education on women's health from an early age" and for women's health issues such as menstrual health and contraception to no longer be taboo subjects "anywhere in society". The NSS highlighted how some faith schools teach stigmatising ideas around contraception and menstruation in its consultation response.
- They will set out plans for sexual and reproductive health later this year. This will include increasing access and choice for all women who want contraception and ensuring women can continue to access robust and high-quality abortion services. The NSS emphasised the importance of protecting access to safe abortions and emergency contraception.
- They aim for greater awareness among the general population of specialist services for victims of sexual violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM). The NSS urged the government to tackle religiously-motivated misogyny, including FGM.
- Together with the recent NSS-supported ban on 'virginity testing' and 'virginity repair' hymenoplasty, the government is developing an awareness raising programme to "tackle the harmful misbeliefs that surround a woman's virginity". An impact assessment document on the hymenoplasty ban published on Tuesday said hymenoplasty is a form of 'honour'-based violence performed on women and girls "predominantly in highly conservative communities", particularly some Muslim and Jewish communities.
NSS: 'Welcome ambitions to tackle imposition of religious beliefs on women's health'
NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "We welcome the government's ambitions to tackle several of the women's health issues we raised, including improved relationships and sex education, access to contraception and abortion, and strategies to end violence against women.
"These are all areas where the imposition of religious beliefs has proved detrimental to women's rights, health and wellbeing.
"The government must now ensure it lives up to its ambitions without giving way to any demands from religious groups that want to reinforce conservative gender roles."
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