Barriers to sexual and reproductive health care among widows in Nepal

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics








Health services accessibility; Healthcare disparities; Nepal; Reproductive health; Social stigma; Widowhood; Women's health


Objective To investigate how the social status of high-caste Nepali widows of reproductive age impacts their sexual and reproductive health care. Methods Twenty-one in-depth interviews and 1 focus group (n = 6) were conducted between September and November 2012 in the Kathmandu, Kavre, and Chitwan districts of Nepal. Participants were members of Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group. Interviews and the focus group with widows followed a semi-structured interview guide designed to elicit information on sexual and reproductive health problems, knowledge about them, and barriers to care. Two researchers used inductive and deductive coding to analyze transcripts for themes using ATLAS.ti. Results Widows reported facing substantial obstacles to accessing sexual and reproductive health care. Widows suspected of having sexual and reproductive health problems, or who discussed or tried to access these services, could be ostracized by their families and experience severe economic and psychological consequences. Additionally, widows feared discrimination, lack of confidentiality, and sexual harassment by male providers if their status was known. These barriers appeared to stem from the perception that sexual relationships are necessary for widows to require care for gynecologic problems. Conclusion Widows expressed a need for sexual and reproductive health care and described cultural and systematic barriers to accessing this care; these barriers need to be addressed. © 2014 International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

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