Sex, Health and Rights

Hegemonic norms of masculinity typically encourage men to use sex to demonstrate their masculinity, often in risky and unsafe ways, and promote ideas of men as invulnerable, which can make them hesitant to seek help for their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs and/or from being involved in their partners’ SRH. There has been a growing recognition of the gender and social constructs that influence men’s sexual attitudes and behaviours, and the need to hold men accountable for the choices and decisions they make in their sexual lives given the impact of men as individuals, social gatekeepers and family members on their own and women’s sexual and reproductive health. In addition, there has been a recent impetus towards increasing men’s utilisation of SRH services and meeting their SRH needs, including addressing specific barriers men themselves often face in accessing SRH facilities – reflecting the view that greater SRH-seeking behaviour among men is not only good for men’s health, but also for the wellbeing of their partners and families. 

However, regarding men as a new client group for existing women’s SRH services is not enough in itself to challenge the gender norms that hinder large scale and sustainable change in SRHR. A narrow focus on service delivery also fails to acknowledge how issues of sexuality, social relationships, and gender roles shape men and women’s SRH. A more comprehensive approach to men’s health and sex also acknowledges the positive role men can play as advocates in supporting women’s SRH and in transforming norms of masculinity that constrain reproductive health and rights for everyone.

Key areas of concern regarding this approach are how to promote the SRH of men and boys in ways that advance gender equality and women’s empowerment since programs and policy with this objective are the most challenging to implement and evaluate, as well as how the SRH needs of men can be considered in related policy, programming, and structural interventions. How to promote and ensure the sustainability of long-term change regarding men’s sexual health, and how this is influenced by men’s and women’s attitudes towards gender norms, also needs to be better understood.  

Learning aims

  1. Understanding the broad trends and shifts in SRH discourse and rights and how this influences more gender-equal participation in SRH
  2. Evidence on how institutions including SRH services, policies and programs have sought to promote men’s SRH and the influence of these processes on men and women’s SRH, and gender equity 
  3. Evidence on whether male involvement in SRH leads to more gender equitable norms and empowerment for women
  4. Evidence of successful policy efforts, programmatic solutions, and structural interventions such as education and economic security to promote men’s SRH while simultaneously promoting gender equality