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Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, Geeta Sethi, says men must play a greater role in making family planning decisions.

Her comments come against the background of a recommendation in the State of the World Population Report 2012, for the engagement of men and boys in family planning, for their own benefit and to support the right of women and girls to use contraception.

Ms. Sethi, who was addressing the launch of the report on November 14, at the Comprehensive Clinic in Kingston, said the issue is not only a challenge in Jamaica, but across the world, where family planning is largely seen as the responsibility of the female.

"I think that's (unacceptable) because a child doesn't get born with one parent. Yes, there is artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. But by and large….this is a joint decision by both partners, who contribute to the creation of that life. So it cannot be taken by just one person; it needs to be the couple," she stated.

 She noted further that the enjoyment of sexual relations is seen as a man's prerogative, and men are not taught to be responsible for pregnancies outside marriage. “They learn to pursue their own pleasure, rather than mutual pleasure and respect,” Ms. Sethi said.

Acting Executive Director of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Dr. Sharlene Jarrett, said the agency is cognizant of this issue, and is working to find ways to reach males to sensitize them of the important role they play in family planning.

The State of the World Population Report, published by the UNFPA, calls for developing and developed countries, international organisations and civil society, to do a number of things to make family planning accessible to all.

The report suggests that countries need to radically increase financial and political commitment to ensure that quality family planning services are available to everyone; promote family planning as a right; and integrate voluntary family planning into broader economic and social development.

It also called for the elimination of economic, social, logistical and financial obstacles to voluntary family planning so that everyone can have access; and reduction in the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing availability, reliability and quality of family planning supplies and services, including emergency contraception.

Countries are also urged to make family planning programmes available to the full range of users including adolescents, unmarried people, and all others who need it.

For her part, Acting Manager of the Population and Health Unit at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Toni-Shae Freckleton, said through support from various partners, Jamaica has been working to strengthen its family planning and reproductive health programmes.  

“As we strive to meet our international and local obligations to promote family planning as a human right and promote choice rather than chance, we are cognizant of the strategies to strengthen this approach. Jamaica, through support from all its partners within government, civil society and our international development partners, have made significant contributions to achieve the progress we have made, to date, in this area,” she said.

The report titled: ‘By Choice, Not By Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development’, examines the challenges in ensuring that all women, men and young people are able to exercise that right and suggests actions that governments and international organisations can take to give everyone the power and the means to decide freely and responsibly, how many children to have and when to have them.