Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

A Gendered Perspective on Men's Reproductive Health

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

A Gendered Perspective on Men's Reproductive Health

Article excerpt

The aim of this article is to identify analytical approaches to situate men within the reproductive health processes. One approach is to identify the circumstances under which men ate considered in the reproductive health discourse, the places in which they are absent and present, and how they condition favorable consequences for women's and children's health. This can be achieved without necessarily challenging the premise that women are the only ones who reproduce or questioning the relationships of power that underlie the experience of sexuality and reproduction. Another possibility is to explore the relational, social, and potentially conflictive nature of sexualized reproduction. This alternative means of analyzing reproduction as a gender relational process rather than as isolated events simultaneously recovers the specific sexual and reproductive characteristics of men and women. In the article we use the gender perspective in order to explore the second approach, so as to imagine these processes without negating the dimension of power.

Key Words: reproductive health, men, gender, power

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The aim of this article is to identify some analytical approaches to situate men within the reproductive health processes, which has been defined as having four basic elements: "the ability for individuals to reproduce, and to regulate their fertility; safe pregnancies and deliveries for women; successful pregnancies in terms of child welfare and survival; and partner relations that are free of the fear of unwanted pregnancy or diseases" (Barzelatto & Hempel, 1990; Fathalla, 1989). In 1994, at the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, freedom to enjoy a satisfactory sex life was agreed to along with the highest level of reproductive health being a factor of reproductive rights. The conference emphasized the reproductive health needs of all individuals, including men--and by doing this, essentially determined that male reproductive health is a fundamental human right. (1) This thereby supports the possibility of rethinking gender relations in the sphere of reproduction. (2)

BIOMEDICAL AND DEMOGRAPHIC APPROACH

One way of analyzing the role of men in these processes is to identify the circumstances under which men ate considered in the reproductive health discourse, the places in which they ate absent and present, and how they condition favorable consequences for women's and children's health. Thus, it is possible to observe how men affect morbidity and mortality during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, in processes of fertility regulation, and in the occurrence of abortion. This can be achieved without necessarily challenging the premise that women are the only ones who reproduce or questioning the relationships of power that underlie the experience of sexuality and reproduction. Much work has been done on surveys of family planning, maternal and child health and, to some extent, sexually transmitted diseases, all of which are considered to be some of the integral components that shape reproductive health. Although in some cases these surveys lapse into oversimplification, the indicators they use reveal aspects that can help interpret some of the health and disease processes in the reproductive sphere. These surveys, however, have given little attention to or have ignored the gender relational dimension of sexuality and reproduction, as well as the characteristics of men's sexual and reproductive behavior. The assumptions used in this approach to interpret various aspects of reproductive health rely on the social actions developed to promote it.

Demography and medicine, disciplines that have studied reproduction, have not devoted special attention to analyzing the reproductive process in men. For instance, men are consistently absent from discussions pertaining to pregnancy. Moreover, there are no indicators for the study of fertility that incorporate men. …

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