JOHANNESBURG – “The role of leaders in ensuring integrated sexual and reproductive health services for minority groups is perhaps the most important in the post development agenda”, says Headman Richman Rangwani from Zimbabwe when addressing delegates at the Tweet@able dialogue. Traditional, Religious and Political leaders have a duty to ensure and promote equal treatment amongst citizens. They must ensure constitutional laws are abided by and promote equal and equitable access to health services regardless of gender, sexuality and race.
Key populations are at a high risk of HIV infections due to the stigma and ignorance attached to the groups. The decriminalization of sex work, acts relating to sex work and LGBTI persons will foster a positive sexual culture; furthermore, it will have positive outcomes on the health status of the identified individuals.
In her presentation on Sex workers, Winnet Shamuyarira of KATSWE Sisterhood Zimbabwe highlighted that the fear of victimization and rejection by families, the state and communities leads to the lack of access to health and legal services by marginalized groups thus attributing to the growth of HIV and a step back in the development already attained. Policies developed are often based on nameless faces thus policies need to be based on real stories submitted by participants. KATSWE is looking at various ways of giving voices to women, men and transgender individuals working as sex workers. Such initiatives are aimed at giving human faces to their plight for SRH and HIV services.
The biggest challenge identified is the lack of information and knowledge within communities. People need to be sensitized via dialogues and workshops geared at promoting sexual health rights for all to enjoy human rights. The State, NGOs and other human rights organizations must look at more advocacy work pertaining to the realization of Sexual Health Rights in order to ensure the post 2015 development goals are achieved. Generating and sharing relevant information on key issues related to key populations will not only sensitize but will also raise awareness, educate and influence policy makers, the general public and implementers on the rights and issues of key populations.
Young people were also identified as a group that is often overlooked in the development of HIV and SRH policies. Recommendations include involving young people and women in the discussions for SRH as they remain at the heart of poverty, oppression and many forms of discrimination.
Comprehensive sexual education is needed in shaping the future of Africa as it will assist in creating a state where people make their own decisions and choices and they are able to protect themselves. Delegates and Governments were called to work together and build strong partnerships to respond to the daunting health and legal challenges faced by minority groups in the continent.
Leaders have a duty to advocate and be devoted to strengthening the capacities of minority groups and secure respect, promote and protect their rights. It is time to engage national and international processes in advocating for safeguarding minority groups rights.
SAfAIDS Media Desk
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