Still unequal? : The impact of social identities on girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in South Africa

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen

Abstract:

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are human rights, thus they should be universally accessible. Young women and girls are often considered a disadvantaged group with low access to human rights. Various feminist scholars have highlighted gender inequality as the cause of this marginalisation. Intersectionality scholars instead argue the marginalisation of women to be more complex. The approach emphasises that oppressed women and girls are not only discriminated because of their gender but that the prevalence of intragroup discrimination hampers them from accessing their rights. This thesis aims to study if and how social identities, more specifically class and ethnicity, affect adolescent girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health and rights within the South African school realm. A case study is conducted on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, focusing on secondary- and high school teachers and on how the subject Life Orientation is implemented to create access to SRHR.

Empirical results of the study indicate that class- and ethnic belonging impacts the access of female students to their rights in various ways. Monetary resources, information and knowledge influence social identities and access to SRHR in Life Orientation. As well as overall school conditions, including level of school violence and harassment. Finally, this thesis illustrates that privileged girls are also impeded from accessing their SRHR, due to the implementation of school fees. This system allows guardians to gain substantial influence and constrain school teachings of controversial topics. 

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