Women’s Health is a Women’s Rights Issue

Words by Ariane Bouché
Art (untitled) by Julia Oborne

TW: Rape, sexual abuse, birth control

Birth control has caused me bleeding for weeks at a time, severe cystic acne and mood swings. I was not even warned of these consequences. Health care officials are so set on having us graduate childless that they are ready to insert foreign objects inside of us without warning us of side effects first – I was told not to look them up as they might “scare” me. Men’s birth control has yet to be legalized. Why? Because it may cause acne and mood swings. It is illegal for men to experience what I and so many other women have. This is a women’s rights issue.

My friend was raped. It is too easy to blame “hookup culture,” the victim, or consumption of alcohol – which those in power have too often been pointing their fingers at in the last decades. Rape culture is nothing new. It is about power over a victim and until very recently it was only frowned upon because it dishonored the victim’s family if she was a virgin. This is a women’s rights issue.

My friend’s body shut down after her rape. She developed as a consequence a condition called vaginismus which few have ever heard of. It means she could not have sex for five years as her vagina tensed up every time she tried, a protective response which she could not control. There are no readily available treatments and my friend had to hunt through Reddit to look for answers. If men couldn’t have sex, you better believe they’d have found a cure a long time ago. This is a women’s rights issue.

At the hospital, my friend woke up after a black out, confused. She had no knickers on. They refused to rape test her or test her blood for drugs, even though she had only had one drink. They categorized her as a dumb drunk girl. With English as her second language, struggling to put her fears into words, she was ignored and dismissed by the institution that is supposed to comfort her and make sure her health is right. This is a women’s rights issue.

We must not forget that equality is not only about who the next president is or how much we get payed. Equality is in all areas of life. Women’s health is an issue concerning half of the global population. The World Health Organization considers health care a human right. The scandal surrounding women’s health points to the fact that we are still considered “the second sex.” Our wellbeing matters less than men’s. We do not have full control over our reproductive system and it is still considered acceptable that we do not have the power to choose who or what enters our bodies. We are still seen as objects of sexual pleasure for men rather than having agency of our own. This is reflected in more than just the reproductive rights debacle. It is in the very instruments which we use to control that reproduction: the hormones we put in our bodies, and always running the risk that we may be harmed in the name of the other’s libido.

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