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Sexual health policies and youth: a case study of the Maldives

Hameed, Shaffa (2012) Sexual health policies and youth: a case study of the Maldives. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This research examines sexual health (SH) policies and experiences of youth, using the Maldives as a case study. Youth SH is a controversial and under-researched issue in The Maldives, an Islamic state where premarital sexual activity is a punishable offence. This thesis addresses the question: To what extent, and why is there a mismatch between official Maldivian SH policies, services and data and the lived experiences of youth in Maldives? It is a mixed methods study involving four research methods and sets of data: i) qualitative in-depth interviews (n=61) with youth aged 18-24 years from three sites within the Maldives; ii) key informant interviews (n=17) with policy actors and service providers; iii) a web-based quantitative survey of Maldivian youth (n=480); and iv) secondary analysis of the Maldives DHS 2009. There are four main findings from this research, three of which are substantive, and one of which is methodological. Sociocultural and religious factors heavily influenced policymaking, service provision and youth experiences. Contrary to most theocratic states, the SH policymaking process in the Maldives is shaped by policy actors and institutions whose strengths have more sociocultural basis than religious expertise. Whilst published official data and original secondary analyses of the MDHS suggest that premarital sexual activity among youth is very limited; this thesis finds extensive reporting of sexual activity. This contrast was also reflected in youth’s knowledge of STIs- where official data displayed a higher level of awareness than found through in-depth interviews and the web-based survey- and their experience of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, which appear to be under-reported in official data. Analyses of the web-based survey using the same questions as the DHS show significantly higher levels of reporting of sexual activity, showing a strong modality effect on survey response. Results from the web-based survey demonstrated that if sociocultural factors were removed from questionnaire design (e.g. censorship of certain issues) and administration (e.g., privacy and anonymity- difficult to achieve in small island communities typical of the Maldives); it is possible to improve response rates and quality of the data. Finally, this thesis highlights two key characteristics of the relationship between SH policy, services, data and youth experiences in the Maldives. Firstly, youth SH experiences appear to be disconnected from SH policies, services and data. Secondly, there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between official SH data and policies, where restrictive policies dictate the type and extent of data that may be collected, which then reinforce justifications for the current restrictive policies and limited services. Policy implications of this research include identifying and addressing the links between SH policymaking and religious and sociocultural factors, and addressing the subsequent effect on SH policy and services for youth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Shaffa Hameed
Library of Congress subject classification: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Coast, Ernestina and Bhatia, Mrigesh

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