Contraception changed the world. It allowed countless women to take control over their sexual and reproductive health and catapulted the emancipation of the so-called second sex.
However, issues surrounding the drug remain, with some in Malta unable access it due to shortages, a lack of financial assistance and far from adequate sex education.
On World Contraception Day, let’s talk about contraception and why Malta needs to step its game up.
What is contraception?
Contraception can include any device or drug that prevents pregnancy during sexual intercourse like pills, condoms, implants, injections, patches, rings and the list goes on.
However, its uses stretch far beyond that, with many taking them for irregular or absent menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, acne, PMS, endometriosis, Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Despite its importance, there are several hurdles many face with contraceptives.
Many brands of the hormonal pill are constantly out of stock, even before COVID-19 hit the islands, meaning countless women are left having to change their prescriptions unannounced.
And it’s not even listed as an essential medicine by the government. If it was, the state would be incentivised to prevent such widespread shortages that occur at the expense of women.
Plus, with a lack of a government-sponsored means of procuring the drug, it could be an unaffordable burden for those who simply can’t afford it.
Add to the fact that Malta retains its blanket ban on abortion and a dusty, decade-old sexual health policy, it’s no wonder politicians and activists have called for change.
“In this time of international crisis and uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable sexual health services that provide a range of options and information are more important than ever,” NGO Doctors For Choice said on World Contraception Day.
“These drugs allow women to take control of their sexual and reproductive lives, letting them decide when they’d like to get pregnant. And condoms are equally vital. They play a dual role since they also protect against sexually transmitted infections.”
“For a country where abortion is still illegal, it’s vital that contraceptives are freely available and easily accessible. Studies even show that countries where contraceptives are distributed for free have lower abortion rates,” it added.
Figures and groups from each side of the political spectrum have also called for better sexual health policies.
In their latest proposals, Nisa Laburista, Labour’s women forum, called for more financial assistance to make birth control more accessible, especially for young people.
“It is crucial that methods to prevent pregnancy are as accessible as possible for everyone,” they argued, adding that Malta also needs informative campaigns to reduce stigma on those using them.
Their proposal was supported by Parliamentary Secretary for Equality Rosianne Cutajar, who previously advocated for an updated sex health policy.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party’s youth wing MŻPN joined in the call for contraceptive medication to be included on the state’s list of essential medicines and be made accessible “at all times and to everyone – including those who may perhaps not afford to purchase them”.
The proposal was spearheaded by PN’s spokesperson Claudette Buttigieg and Stephen Spiteri.
Fortunately, Minister for Health Chris Fearne recently announced that a fresh sexual health policy is in the works, the first draft of which will come out in March.
Hopefully, it can address the issues Lovin Malta has flagged here.
Happy World Contraception Day!