Call for Papers

RHM 48 Sexuality, sexual and reproductive health in later life

New submission deadline: 1 June 2016!

download a pdf of the RHM48 Call for Papers

With a growing number of older people in the world, it is time for Reproductive Health Matters to look more closely at the sexual and reproductive health of people in this different stage of life.

This issue of the journal will shine a spotlight on people over 50, inviting research, policy analysis and examples of practical actions that address the effects of ageing on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health. We also welcome contributions that highlight the often ignored health and social challenges faced by older people in meeting their sexual and reproductive health needs and rights, and best practices for overcoming these barriers.

Sex and ageing is often an invisible subject in research, policy and programming. Research in general, and sexual and reproductive health research in particular, tends to focus on the 15-49 year age group, resulting in limited data about sexual practices, risks and experiences of people aged 50 and older. Sexual and reproductive health care tends to focus on adults of reproductive age and with child-bearing potential far more than on older adults.

Older adults are assumed to have reduced or non-existent sexual desire, especially – it seems – women, who become invisible once their reproductive function ceases. Yet, people’s sex lives continue actively well into older age, and sexuality continues to play an important role for people’s quality of life and well-being. Although there is a growing focus on the positive elements of sexuality and sexual rights in younger age groups, for older adults the focus is primarily on ‘sexual function’ rather than a more positive approach to experiences of sexuality and sexual expression.

Despite a growth in advocacy for inclusion of older people within international policies, the sexual and reproductive health agenda remains a “policy blind spot”.[1] Older adults have diverse and age-specific reproductive and sexual health needs, and the implications of some of the barriers to comprehensive sexual health services can be pronounced. Sexual health information and prevention efforts primarily target younger people, rendering older populations more vulnerable to sexual ill-health. Studies have shown low condom rates[2], and higher incidence of HIV among older adults.

Women approaching menopause undergo a series of physiological and emotional changes that impact their sexuality, and require tailored interventions to support them through and beyond this complex transition. Increased risk of a range of post-reproductive and /or hormone-related ill-health, such as osteoporosis, malignancies, and other genitourinary and gynaecological conditions, also comes with older age. Data on sexual rehabilitation from prostate cancer has received increasing attention, however, more information is needed on the physical and emotional implications of other diseases affecting older women and men. Attention must also be paid to health concerns of transgender men and women whose specific needs may not be considered or met within mainstream health services.

Another important area for consideration is the wide range of social and economic factors that affect older people’s sexual health. Change in household income, and sometimes an increased burden of care within the home, means that both men and women may face economic pressures affecting their ability to seek health care or to practise safe sex. Economic dependency and social marginalisation affect many older people, and older women in some cases are reported as being at increased risk of sexual and interpersonal violence.[3],[4]

We hope that this journal issue will draw attention to these broader issues that older people of all sexual orientations and gender identity are facing, and offer new insights into research, policy and programming that ensure that older people’s sexual health and rights are fully realised.

We invite original research articles, reviews, commentaries, policy analysis, viewpoints and critical perspectives, as well as photo or video articles providing positive and celebratory images of sexuality of older people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We also welcome contributions from activists and actors who are successfully leading the way in promoting a positive approach towards a healthy reproductive and sexual life in older years.

Example of topics are:

  • How are people’s experiences of sexuality and sexual health influenced by ageing?
  • What are the examples of promoting sexual pleasure in older women, men and transgender people?
  • What are the risks and opportunities for older people exploring new sexual relationships, for example, through online dating or in new social positions as widows or widowers?
  • Are there particular issues facing older lesbians, gay men and transgender and intersex people and how are these recognised in the emerging LGBTI policy and research arena?
  • Are there examples of policies and programmes that address the sexual and gender-based violence experienced by older people, particularly women and transgender people?
  • What efforts are underway to include a positive focus on older people’s sexuality (including the right not to be sexually active) onto the international development and sexual and reproductive health and rights agendas?
  • How does ageing affect the body image and sense of sexual desirability?
  • Are there positive examples of responding to the sexual and reproductive health needs of older people facing disabling conditions, through health care settings or within the community?
  • How are health services in low- and middle-income settings addressing sexual and post-reproductive health issues, such as reproductive malignancies, erectile dysfunction, menopause?
  • Are there examples of addressing sexual functioning, rehabilitation and recovery after reproductive cancers in older adults?

The list is not exhaustive and we encourage contributions on other related topics.

We are especially interested in receiving papers from low and middle income countries.

[1] Aboderin I. Sexual and reproductive health and rights of older men and women: addressing a policy blind spot. Reproductive Health Matters 2014;22(44);185-90. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0968-8080(14)44814-6.

[3] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Neglect, abuse and violence against older women, 2013. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/ageing/neglect-abuse-violence-older-women.pdf 

[4] Cooper B, Crockett C. Gender-based violence and HIV across the life course: adopting a sexual rights framework to include older women. RHM 2015;46:56-61. Doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.001.

download a pdf of the RHM48 Call for Papers

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All submissions are now online submit your paper here.

New submission deadline: 1 June 2016!

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Please note that RHM has moved to online-only publication. We have also introduced open-choice, allowing authors to decide whether to publish their articles open access.

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