Pacific Men, Boys Need To Be More Involved In Sexual Health

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Engaging males in discussion topic of regional Parliamentary hearing

By Alistar Kata in Apia

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, July 1, 2015) – Engaging boys and young men in sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific was the theme of an open hearing taking place in the New Zealand Parliament yesterday.

The Minister for Justice and Courts Administration, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was scheduled to attend the event.

She was joining Parliamentarians from five Pacific nations and the head of the world’s second largest non-governmental organisation, Tewodros Melesse, director-general of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to consider how to better involve boys and men in sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific.

Others who took taking part included ministers and members of Parliament from Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

They will join with their New Zealand Parliamentary colleagues to listen to presentations from a wide range of experts in the field.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Tuitama, thinks it is a topic that should be encouraged.

"Knowledge about sex and diseases that are transmitted through acts of sex is a must," he said.

"But because of culture, people are reluctant to talk about sex and are reluctant to talk about diseases as well through sexual relationships, but I think men should be more open."

Sensitive topic

Tuitama said it was a very sensitive topic for a lot of men, but it was a different case when men discussed the topic with other men.

"Men among men, it’s an open topic, women among women, also it is a free topic. But when it’s mixed, then it’s difficult."

The Ministry of Health held a conference last year for men’s health, which Tuitama said was sparked by the ministry seeing the need to focus on men in this area of health.

"The ministry realised that a lot of these efforts are focused on women and women’s health, rather than men, like maternity health," he said.

"We thought that men should also be involved."

The Open Hearing is being organised by Family Planning, which says the aim of the open hearing is to better understand to what extent boys and men are engaged in sexual and reproductive health rights in Pacific Island countries and territories.

Other Pacific ministers and MPs attending the event are, Maere Tekanene, Kiribati Minister for Education, Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala, Tonga Minister for Health, Governor Julie Soso, Papua New Guinea Member of Parliament, and Dr Puakena Boredom, Tuvalu Member of Parliament.

Health needs

In a press statement, New Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) chair Barbara Kuriger said: "The sexual and reproductive health needs of men are just as important as the needs of women, as is engaging men in the discussions."

Presenters at the hearing included the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Tonga Family Health Association, the Kiribati Health Association, and a male youth representative from Kiribati.

A report and recommendations from the hearing will be published later this year and will be shared with Parliamentarians from all participating countries.

Alistar Kata the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch contributing editor at AUT University. She is currently a student intern with the Samoa Observer.

Pacific Scoop All editorial and news content produced under the principles of Creative Commons. Permission to republish with attribution may be obtained from the Pacific Media Centre - pmc@aut.ac.nz

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