Failure to find a sexual partner is now a DISABILITY says World Health Organisation

THE World Health Organization (WHO) is to announce that single men and women without medical issues will be classed as ‘infertile’ if they are childless but wish to become parents. This suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner could be considered a disability.

Under the new terms, heterosexual men and women as well as gay men and women who wish to have children would be given the same priority as couples seeking in vitro fertilisation because of medical fertility problems. The new definitions are being drawn up by the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies for WHO for consideration next year, according to a widely cited report in The Daily Telegraph last month.

The Telegraph reported that the WHO will declare that infertility should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition, and that the new global standards will give every individual “the right to reproduce”.

The current definition of infertility, which the WHO already classifies as a disability, is “the inability of a sexually active, non-contracepting couple to achieve pregnancy in one year”.

In explaining its current definition as a disability, the WHO said, “infertility generates disability (an impairment of function), and thus access to health care falls under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. An estimated 34 million women, predominantly from developing countries, have infertility which resulted from maternal sepsis and unsafe abortion (long term maternal morbidity resulting in a disability). Infertility in women was ranked the fifth highest serious global disability among populations under the age of 60.”

The new standards, according to The Telegraph, suggest that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner — or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception — could be considered an equal disability.

“Under the new terms, heterosexual single men and women and gay men and women who want to have children would be given the same priority as couples seeking IVF treatment because of medical fertility problems,” the report said.

Quoting Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, The Telegraphsaid, “The definition of infertility [will be] now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women. It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change. It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to health care. It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it.”

But local gender specialist Dr Keino Senior, director of the School of Arts Management and Humanities at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, said the reports are alarming.

“The promotion of an idea suggesting that failure to get pregnant after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse would be considered as a disability is troubling. Equally concerning is that any person who is unable to find a suitable sexual partner or is lacking a sexual relationship to have children will now be equally classified as disabled,” he said.

He explained that discussions at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 signified that both men and women should play important roles in reproductive health, and since the Cairo conference, an increasing number of international organisations have been making efforts to not only address the needs of women but also to include men in their analyses and strategies for improving sexual and reproductive health and rights.

However, he explained that the aim is to support women’s reproductive health and rights and to recognise that men’s reproductive health needs and their rights also need to be promoted and protected.

Dr Senior explained that the issue is not only a health or biological concern but also a gender issue.

“The nature of heterosexual relationships could now be seen only for reproductive purposes rather than also for pleasure, leisure or therapeutic purposes. Another negative side of this idea is it would be seen as largely discriminatory against women who are unable to get pregnant and men who are unable to impregnate women, with or without the assistance of fertility technologies, despite the advancement in fertility management.”

Dr Senior added: “We have to be mindful that there are persons who do not desire to have children because of several factors and so one has to be careful in the implementation of this bold move. We must also be careful, as this new concept will have implications for reproductive health programming and education, legal and medical status, and gender-based health programmes.”

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