Gender disparity slows uptake of family planning services

In early July this year, the Sokoto State House of Assembly passed a bill aimed at supplementing the provisions of the Penal Code Act 2019 and punishing crimes related to criminal law. gender-based violence (GBV).

The bill was adopted following consideration of the report of the House Committee on Judiciary, Justice and Human Rights.

The committee recommended that an interpretation section be created in the bill on all sentences relating to violence against a person which includes abandonment of women, children, excision of a girl or ‘a woman, family relationships and violence among others.

According to him, a provision for the compensation of victims should be created and the court should, in addition to the penalties provided for the offenses, grant appropriate compensation to the victim that it deems appropriate in the circumstances.

The new law also provided that a conviction for rape would be punished with life imprisonment or at least 21 years. He also committed various crimes of excision and abandonment of wives or children.

It remains to be seen how these provisions will be applied. Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal said over the past two years his government has sent half of the 1.2 million school-aged children wandering the streets of the city back to class. State.

With so many gaps in human development indicators, one wonders if the large families and low uptake of family planning services in the state are a credit. Sokoto faces a situation of high fertility and low contraceptive use, largely due to high fertility standards, pronatal cultural and religious beliefs, misconceptions about contraceptive methods, and gender inequalities.

Available data shows that thousands of women in Sokoto state would prefer to avoid getting pregnant right away or to space the time between each pregnancy, but are not using contraception. These women are said to have an “unmet need” for family planning.

The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) reported that the total fertility rate in the northwest of the country where Sokoto is comfortably seated as a leader was 6.6 live births per woman, and that women aged 40 to 49 had an average of 8.3 births in their reproductive period. lives.

This high fertility situation puts women at increased risk of childbirth complications and maternal mortality. Nigeria currently has more maternal deaths each year than any other country in the world and the fourth highest maternal mortality rate.

The use of contraception to limit or space births is not the norm in this region. In the 2018 NDHS, only 6.2% of married women in the Northwest were currently using some form of modern contraception, and the majority of married women – 68.7% – reported no need for family planning for the spacing or limitation.

Aside from some obvious reasons such as the need to preserve the family, misconceptions about contraceptives, and religion, gender inequality is secretly at the heart of the unmet demand for family planning services in the state of Sokoto.

Children in this part of the world are motivated by gender power imbalances, fostered by patriarchal social structures in which women have limited autonomy over most decisions, including those that affect marriage, health, and marriage. fertility. Men are often the final decision-makers on important household issues, including those related to household purchases, the health of family members, timing of pregnancies, family size, and child rearing. As decision-makers of family size, men ultimately determine contraceptive use through their fertility desires and their approval or disapproval of contraception.

A woman’s limited education, attributed mainly to a culture of early marriage, puts her even more at a disadvantage.

The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) Nigeria recently released data from a review of sexual and gender-based violence and budget in Sokoto State between 2016-2019, where it was found that in 2013, less than 1% of women in Sokoto used traditional or modern methods of contraception (0.30% and 0.7% respectively) while only 7.5% had unmet need for family planning. In the same year, the national average indicates that 5.40% and 9.8% of women used traditional and modern contraceptives, respectively, while the unmet need was 16.1%. This shows that more women were using contraceptives of all types across the country compared to Sokoto’s percentages.

In addition, in 2018, 0.20% and 2.3% used traditional and modern contraceptives respectively in Sokoto State, while the national average was 4.6% and 12% respectively for traditional and modern contraceptive methods. . Again, this indicates that more women were using contraceptives of any type nationwide compared to Sokoto State.

A 2021 study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that in the northwest of Sokoto state inclusive, almost two-thirds of adult women have no formal education, and only 29% are considered literate. Forced and early marriages are common, and many girls are married as young as 12. The median age at first marriage is around 15.9 years. The median age of men, on the other hand, is 25.3 years, revealing considerable age differences, and hence power gaps. In this context, women are valued largely for their reproductive functions.

From a woman’s perspective, fertility is a mechanism by which women can confer some control over marital situations that are largely beyond their control. Wives often view having many children as a way of discouraging husbands from taking other wives, which can affect a wife’s position within the polygynous family structure.

In the polygamous marriages common in this region, resources and wealth are generally distributed to wives according to the number of children they have, both daily and upon the husband’s death, thus limiting the incentives to resort to marriage. contraception. Researchers identified the dynamics of marital relationships as explaining 11 percent of the variation in contraceptive use between states in northern Nigeria and states in southern Nigeria.

In fact, low fertility can have dire consequences for women, as husbands can use limited pregnancy as an excuse to marry other women and divorce their existing wives.

The right to health to which women in Sokoto State are entitled requires that all sexually active women, married or not, need accurate information about pregnancy and the full range of contraceptive options so that they can they can choose the method that best meets their needs.

Manifestations of gender inequality and sexual violence are not isolated but are the product of discrimination prohibited by international standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – being the product of patriarchy and unequal power relations.

Patriarchal practices prevalent in different Nigerian cultures continue to predispose women and girls to violence, resulting in poor reproductive and sexual health outcomes, limited access to and control over resources, a plus. high vulnerability to poverty at certain ages of life, limited access to education, lack of inheritance rights, lack of voice and minimal participation in decision-making processes at different levels.

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa contains detailed provisions on the absence of violence for women and girls.

The Protocol directs States parties to enact and enforce laws prohibiting all forms of violence against women, including unwanted sexual relations, whether the violence takes place in private or in public, as well as to identify the causes and consequences of violence against women and take appropriate measures to prevent and eliminate such violence.

The Sokoto State Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2019 contains some interesting provisions. Article 190 provides for a remedy for a married woman against her husband and others with regard to his person and his property. It provides that a woman who has entered into a valid marriage has in her own name against any person whatsoever, including the husband of the marriage, the same remedies or reparation through criminal proceedings for the protection and security of his person or his own property. as if these goods belonged to her as a single woman. Relevant key words for gender rights relate to personal protection and security, which strengthens the constitutional protection of human dignity.

It is time for the Sokoto State Assembly to promulgate the Children’s Rights Law, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Law, the Prohibition of Violence Against Persons Law and State Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response Team.

Equally important is the need to target the male population in gender programs against violence and unequal treatment. This is important because improving contraceptive knowledge among women alone will not increase the use of modern contraceptives. Women do not make family planning decisions in a vacuum, there are social influences from husbands, family members and health care providers.

Meanwhile, more emphasis should be placed on disseminating information on reproduction and contraception through mass media in order to achieve wider dissemination.

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