In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend a national consultation with members of Parliament in Bangladesh on integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights into the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The consultation was hosted by the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh with support from the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Bangladesh has made impressive strides toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It has met the gender parity goals for primary and secondary education and is on track to fulfill the tertiary education goals. Bangladesh has also met the under-five mortality-reduction rate goal and is likely to reach the goal of reducing maternal mortality.
Despite impressive progress, many sexual and reproductive health targets still need attention. Approximately one in three Bangladeshi girls is married before age 15 and 40 percent of Bangladeshi women ages 20–24 reported giving birth before age 18. The majority of adolescent pregnancies occur within marriage, and most first births occur within the first year of marriage. Cultural pressure to demonstrate fertility soon after marriage, combined with a high rate of unmet contraceptive need (16 percent) in this age group, are the primary contributing factors to high birth rates soon after marriage. Adolescent mothers face an increased risk of pregnancy complications, such as obstructed labor and fistula, as well as infant and maternal mortality. Furthermore, early marriage and unintended pregnancy are two of the main reasons that girls drop out of school.Young people’s sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental component of human development. Click To Tweet
Increased investment in sexual and reproductive health, specifically for adolescents, will move the country closer to reaching the proposed SDGs with specific, applicable targets. These include SDG Target 2c (realize sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, and promote the rapid reduction in fertility to replacement level or below through exclusively voluntary means) and 5a (ensure universal coverage of quality health care, including the prevention and treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive health, family planning, routine immunization, and mental health, according the highest priority to primary health care).
Investment in sexual and reproductive health is also critical to achieving other proposed goals that do not specifically address this topic. Examples include proposed Target 3b, which aims to reduce the school dropout rate to zero, and Target 5b to end preventable deaths, which involves reducing maternal mortality to 40 or fewer deaths per 100,000 live births.
We believe that young people’s sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental component of human development. The recent meeting in Bangladesh provided an important opportunity to advocate for adolescent sexual and reproductive health as critical to achieving the proposed SDGs. Investments in this population will do more than move Bangladesh closer to achieving the proposed SDGs; it will ensure that young people are able to reach their full potential.