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Jakarta Post

COVID-19 impacts on family planning, women's health and gender-based violence

  • Inforial

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta, Indonesia   /   Mon, July 13, 2020   /   12:01 am
COVID-19 impacts on family planning, women's health and gender-based violence Major issues: National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) head Hasto Wardoyo speaks to the press during a media briefing about World Population Day on Friday at the BKKBN headquarters in Central Jakarta. According to the agency, limited access to healthcare facilities because of COVID-19 had led to an increasing number of unintended pregnancies, reproductive health problems and cases of gender-based violence. (./.)

It seems ironic that the COVID-19 health crisis has led to a decrease invisits to health facilities, which has affected many factors in public health, including family planning. Limited access to health facilities for those in need of family planning serviceshas led to an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, while other services for reproductive health issues have also become difficult to access.

A recent study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with contributions from Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University and Victoria University, highlighted that prolonged lockdowns with major disruptions to health services will hamper access for 47 million women in low-and-middle-income countries to modern contraceptives, which may lead to 7 seven million unintended pregnancies. It also predicted 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence.

“The disruption of the UNFPA’s programs on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted,” UNFPA said on its website.

According to National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) headHasto Wardoyo, in limitedaccess to healthcare facilities during the pandemic, Indonesian needs to pay attention to mistimed pregnancies.

“[…] Because even before the pandemic, approximately 17.5 percent of pregnancy were unintended, with higher rates in big cities. There is also domestic violence, divorce, stunting, stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths that make up population problems we have to deal with,” Hasto said at a press conference for the commemoration of World Population Day alongside BKKBN deputy for population control Dwi Listyawardani.

BKKBN, as a government body that is in charge of the Family, Population and Family Planning Establishment (Bangga Kencana) program, conducts activities with different themes every year to observe World Population Day on July 11.

This year, the theme is Impact of COVID-19 on Family Planning, Women’s Health and Gender-based Violence,in line with UNFPA’s theme of Putting the Brakes on COVID-19: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now.

The theme aims to raise awareness about what is needed to maintain, protect women’s sexual and reproductive health during the pandemic and assure that the efforts made so farare on the desired trackto fulfill the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Dwi added that the BKKBN continued to optimize its efforts to assist the ministries, government bodies and provincial administrations on population issues.

“We are also composing a draft of the academic text forthe bill to strengthen Law No. 52/2009 as well as the presidential regulation (Perpres) regarding the Population Development Grand Design, while we help the population issues to surface into the mainstream of Indonesia’s development,” Dwi said.

The BKKBN has long been coming up with new,innovative ways to approach teenagers regarding resilience, and through the Generasi Berencana (Generation Planning/GenRe) program, it has targeted a number of issues, including raising the minimum age for marriage to 21 years old for women and 25 for men.

The GenRe program is directly aimedat teenagers and parents who have teenagersthrough Teenagers Information and Counseling Center (PIK Remaja) for the former.

At this moment, there are 23,579 PIK Remaja centers across the country, which are expected to be a forum for teenagers to gather, share stories, do creative activities and exchange information with their peers.

“A survey conducted by the BKKBN involving 20,680 families in Indonesia revealed that most of them are resilient in facing COVID-19 because they accept [the reality], support each other and avoid quarrels during the pandemic. Behind the family resilience against COVID-19, there are the roles of women or wives in maintaining a harmonious household,”said Hasto, referring to data that shows that 99 percent of families surveyed support each other, 98.1 percent avoid quarrels and 97.7 percent accept the current conditions.

Hasto went on to say that 79.9 percent of families surveyed limited their spending during the pandemic, but what needed to be paid attention to were those who had sold their possessions, including jewelry (50.6 percent), borrowed money from their neighbors (19.8 percent) and argued with other family members and are at risk of divorce (2.5 percent).

The UN first declared World Population Day on the Day of Five Billion on July 11, 1987, to mark the world population reaching 5 billion that day. The day was then declared as a time to raise awareness of population problems that can occur as a result of a growing population, as well as what can be done to overcome these problems, such as family planning, promoting gender equality, alleviating poverty, improving maternal health and protecting human rights.

The main events that the BKKBN will conduct in collaboration with UNFPA to observe 2020 World Population Day include workshops, webinars and dialogues that involve the authorities, religious leaders, women leaders and the youth. They will focus on the promotion of reproductive health, youth reproductive health, family planning and prevention of gender-based violence against women and girls.