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5. Gender-equality in health

In the health services it is particularly clear that men represent the norm. Women’s health and diseases are given lower priority and poorer economic conditions than men’s are. Women have poorer accessibility to care and rehabilitation in many areas. This injustice has been noted increasingly in recent years but much remains to be done.

Until fairly recently it was believed, for example, that women were not afflicted by heart and lung diseases so much as men. This proved to be wrong. This not detected earlier because the research was based on the male anatomy.

Elderly people suffering from depression or anxiety constitute a forgotten group in care, even though mental ill-health among those over 65 is as common as dementia. Dementia illnesses may initially be confused with other mental illnesses and vice-versa. The proportion of elderly people with depression is judged to be a public health problem. Twenty-seven percent of women aged 65–79 suffer anxiety, uneasiness or nervousness.

There are still areas where research into women’s health is neglected. There are still problems and diseases linked with women’s sexual and reproductive health, such as endometriosis, incontinence vestibulitis and birth injury. Strain injuries and stress in occupations involving person-to-person contact are increasing as a cause of women’s ill-health. Many women testify that their problems are not taken seriously in the health services. This attitude must be resisted.

We are facing a childbirth crisis in Sweden, with full delivery rooms where the midwives kneel to manage their work. In some areas women cannot obtain a place at the nearest hospital but are compelled to travel to other towns, or even abroad, to give birth. The right to a safe delivery must become a matter of course in Sweden.

To be able to analyze more clearly the difference in care between women and men, health care statistics must be reported by sex; and research on women’s diseases must get more resources. Care-oriented programs also need a clearer genus perspective in teaching.

S-kvinnor must strive to increase the national insurance office allowance for employees’ and job applicants’ care of close relatives, so that it allows more than one person to apply at the same time.

A new sexual revolution

The norms for gender and sexual disposition have changed, not least in that a critical perspective on the hetero norm has developed. Many have a more permissive attitude to sex and have several sexual contacts. The breakthrough of the internet and social media has brought new meeting places and information sites for love and sexuality. Sexual relations have been partly disassociated from love relationships, pregnancy and childbearing.

Notions persist that sexuality and sex drive depend on gender. This affects values and attitudes regarding sex. In fact, sexuality is individual and varies equally within and between groups of women and men. Women have long been brought up to a passive sexual role based on men’s needs, while men have been brought up to an active role. Much indicates that this notion is undergoing a change and that young girls and boys today are having sex more on equal terms. This is good, but at the same time there is much to do for women to be able to affirm their sexuality. A new sexual revolution is needed. Women’s right to their own bodies must also be the right to their own inclinations, throughout life.

Sexual health is public health

Even though we know how important our sexuality is for our wellbeing, issues of sexual health seldom have high priority in public-health policy. There is insufficient knowledge of sexual health in the population. No major sexual survey has been undertaken since the 1990s, though a fairly small survey from 2013 showed that sexual health is linked to class, gender and age. The survey notes among other things that Swedes are having less sex than ever before and that sexual desire has declined. The cause is often tiredness and stress.

National follow-up of sexuality and reproductive health today is focusing on unprotected sex, abortion, and sexual violence and coercion. There is a dearth of follow-up focusing more on more health-promoting areas, and also on knowledge of sexuality and satisfactory sex life.

Sexuality needs to become a self-evident, integrated part of public health.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people as a group have poorer mental health. For example, trans people run a considerably higher risk of ill-health and suicide. The special vulnerability of LGBT people also needs higher priority in public health through directed measures.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

Sexual and reproductive ill-health is currently the commonest health problem among women world-wide. A complicated pregnancy, delivery, abortion and injurious customs such as female circumcision can involve life-threatening danger. The right to maternity care, care during delivery, contraceptives, care and education to prevent sexual ill-health, is vital.

The right to free abortion is decisive for the ability to decide for oneself and about one’s own body. Threats to free abortion are creeping ever nearer. The anti-abortionists’ strategy with frightening pictures and slogans has been supplemented with a more insidious juridical struggle to undermine abortion law. S-kvinnor stand for the right to abortion both nationally and internationally. Women should be cared for by professional staff who can disregard their own value judgements.

S- kvinnor’s demands:
  • Earmarked resources for more research into and knowledge of women’s health and diseases.
  • Free screening programs for gynecological smear tests all over the country.
  • Ensure gender-equal care through better statistics broken down by gender, plus a clearer gender perspective in care-oriented training courses.
  • Affirm girls’ and women’s sexuality and counter old norms and sexism.
  • Norm-critical sex- and cohabitation teaching to be developed and given by teachers trained in the subject.
  • Youth clinics must be free and reach everyone.
  • Sexuality to be included in national public health surveys.
  • Special initiatives to uphold the rights of LGBT people.
  • SRHR issues to receive more weight in public health policy.
  • Safeguard the right to free abortion, nationally and internationally.
  • Ensure access to maternity care and minimize, diagnose and treat the number of birth injuries, and improve postnatal care.
  • More research into, and knowledge of, older women’s mental ill-health to prevent depression.
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