Sexual and reproductive justice for LGBTQI youth in policy responses across Eastern and Southern Africa
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Both significant progress and profound backlash have occurred in the inclusion of sexual and gender diversity across eastern and southern Africa. This includes the decriminalization of homosexuality in Mozambique in 2015 and the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (later annulled) in Uganda in the preceding year. Simultaneously there is increased pressure on Ministries of Education to engage more robustly with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education in education systems across the region. Emerging regional research points to a narrow, heteronormative focus in comprehensive sexuality education; access barriers to sexual and reproductive health services; and pervasive school-related gender-based violence, including homophobic and transphobic violence. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a key role in developing best practice in advancing the SRHR of sexual and gender minority youth and are therefore a valuable resource for government SRHR policies and programmatic responses. The regional SRHR education policy landscape is underpinned by two policy narratives: that of young peoples SRHR as a public health concern and a focus on young peoples human rights. These policy narratives not only underpin SRHR policy in the region but also in many instances are drawn on in CSO advocacy when positioning the SRHR of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) young people as an important policy concern. These two dominant policy narratives, however, have a narrow focus on young peoples risks and vulnerabilities, may inadvertently perpetuate stigma and marginalization of LGBTQI youth, and may limit youth voice and agency. These narratives also do not sufficiently engage local sociocultural and structural conditions that drive negative SRHR outcomes for young people in the region. Research, advocacy, and policy development toward the full realization of the SRHR of sexual and gender minority youth can address some of the limitations of health and rights-based policy narratives by drawing on a sexual and reproductive justice framework. Such a framework expands the policy focus on health risks and individual rights to include engagement with sociocultural and structural constraints on young peoples ability to exercise their rights. A sexual and reproductive justice framework provides a more robust toolkit when working toward full inclusion of sexual and gender diversity in regional school-based SRHR policy and programs.
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