Brac James P Grant School of Public Health (Brac JPGSPH), Brac University organised an online Policy Dialogue Workshop on Monday titled "Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Male Youths (15-24 years) in Bangladesh: Challenges and Opportunities" to share and discuss their research findings from the study, "Male Youths and their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Bangladesh: A Mixed-methods Nationwide Study".
Brac JPGSPH shared primary research findings on available health services, knowledge channels, SRHR programmes, and national SRHR policies and laws for male youths. They shared that male youths have very poor knowledge of SRHR. Also, health service accessibility by male youths regarding SRH is very low due to unavailability of and unwillingness to receive services.
Moreover, textbooks are not designed to discuss male SRH issues elaborately compared to girls. For example, textbooks have information regarding reproductive health of females but not as descriptive for males.
They also shared that national policy and development indicators are centred around female SRHR. The current laws regarding male SRHR issues, especially Section 375 of the Penal Code lacks an inclusive definition of rape. The study revealed that though there are many programmes of SRHR, however, male SRHR issues are mostly ignored in the program activities.
Dr Jaynal Haque, Programme Manager, Adolescent and Reproductive Health, DGFP, in his discussion, emphasised enhancing the collaboration between GOs, NGOs, and schools through information sharing, consultation, and service delivery provisions. He conveyed that the government's goal is to "leave no one behind" on the issue of health.
Syed Mahfooz Ali, Senior Specialist, Curriculum Wing, NCTB, expressed his views on developing SRHR curriculum for boys focusing on the negative effects of masculinity, gender-based violence, gang culture etc. and urged for upgrading contents for boys, as there are contents for girls.
He also emphasised for generating evidence on male adolescent and youth health issues, which needs to be addressed to the policymakers.
He mentioned that The NCTB is now working on revising curriculum and asked for suggestions which SRHR components should be incorporated in the curriculum.
He specifically pointed out that achieving a high standard of female SRHR is impossible without contributing to improving male SRHR.
He discussed the success of "Generation Breakthrough" which is an SRHR program for adolescents, mediated by a joint GO-NGO effort.
Dr Bellal, Professor, Population Science, University of Dhaka talked about the importance of cultural context-based strategies to sensitise communities including the parents and community leaders. He urged for introducing age-specific health education and utilizing all available data related to SRHR for taking up the evidence-based policy.
He added that though there are many policies, the main challenge is to implement activities effectively at field level due to the shortage of skilled manpower. Further, it is also challenging to provide quality information and services related to SRHR using a non-judgmental approach. He also urged on increasing "implementation fitness" starting from the central think-tank to grassroots level.
As the special guest, Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's Public Health Expert Advisor, shared his long and enriched experience with SRHR programmes from government and NGO level. He mentioned that the community and the parents are not ready yet to discuss and receive SRHR information and related services due to socio-cultural taboos. Therefore, a holistic approach should be introduced to change and improve the SRHR situation for male youth.
The discussion ended with a conclusion that addressing male SRHR needs to be included in the national policy with utmost importance and immediate action which will be mediated not only by the government officials and NGO workers but also with the active participation of the community people.
This research was funded by the Embassy of The Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN).
In this webinar, Subas Biswas (Senior Research Fellow), Farzana Misha (Research Coordinator), and Professor Dr Sabina Faiz Rashid (Dean) from Brac JPGSPH shared the research findings.
Shahan Ara Banu, Director General, Directorate General of Family Planning, joined the programme as the chief guest.
Other government officials, researchers, and development workers from renowned and grassroots organisations and journalists participated in the session.