Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are about everyone having the right to a safe, enjoyable sex life. And people deciding for themselves if and when they have children. This is not the case in some developing countries. That is why the Netherlands is working to promote SRHR.

SRHR in Dutch development cooperation policy

In the Netherlands, it is taken for granted that people of all ages choose for themselves in matters such as sexual relations and having children. And it is taken for granted that everyone has access to the information and care needed for them to make their own choices.

In many countries, young people’s sexuality and homosexuality are taboo subjects. Large numbers of people have no access to contraceptives or antiretroviral medicines. And many women give birth without any form of professional assistance. Unwanted pregnancies, maternal mortality and transmission of the HIV virus are huge problems.

The Dutch government’s aim is to contribute to reducing maternal mortality rates, curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS and preventing unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenagers. This will not only benefit the people themselves, but also boost social and economic progress in the countries in question.

How is the Netherlands contributing to SRHR?

SRHR is one of the four priority themes of Dutch development cooperation policy. Using its own experience in this field and part of the international cooperation budget, the Netherlands is working to improve the SRHR of people in low- and middle-income countries. This involves focusing on 2 of the Millennium Development Goals:

To achieve them, it has launched programmes in the following 4 areas:

  1. sex education and services for young people;
  2. better access to contraceptives, antiretrovirals and other medicines;
  3. sexual and reproductive health care as part of an accessible, affordable basic healthcare system;
  4. more respect for the sexual health and rights of discriminated and vulnerable groups such as lesbians and gays, drug users, prostitutes and child brides.

Read more about the results achieved in 2015 in the magazine Development Results in Perspective.

Improving SRHR through cooperation

The Netherlands is working to improve SRHR together with government authorities, civil society organisations, businesses, international organisations and research institutions.

  • UNFPA (GPRHCS), the UN population fund, is an important partner in increasing the range and distribution of contraceptives in developing countries.
  • The Netherlands supports the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) organisation in promoting the female condom worldwide.
  • The Netherlands contributes to the development of new medicines and vaccines, and supports the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
  • Through GAVI the Netherlands supports large-scale vaccination programmes for women and children, including against HPV (cervical cancer). Through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,Tuberculosis and Malaria, it is helping to supply millions of antiretroviral medicines.
  • By supporting the international HIV/AIDS alliance LinkUp project, the Netherlands is encouraging integration of HIV/AIDS services with other care needs.
  • The Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE) supports the training of midwives, for example in Ghana.
  • People living with HIV are often discriminated against. The same applies to groups of people who run a relatively high risk of contracting HIV. These include men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users. The Bridging the Gaps and Stepping Up Stepping Out projects aim to tackle these problems. And organisations supported by the Netherlands, UNAIDS for example, also call for attention to them.
  • The Netherlands also helps boys and men to promote gender equality and improve SRHR, through the MenCare programme, for example.