Reproductive health targeted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be achieved without improving access to reproductive health services
]. But the youth are experiencing all forms of sexual abuse and sexual-rights violations that affect their lives
] and the majority of the young people have very little knowledge of what sexual rights they are entitled to. Sometimes, they do not even appreciate the extent of their violations, and what is worse still, they do not know where they could go for legal or social advice
]. Thus, this study is aimed to assess the knowledge of reproductive and sexual rights and associated factors among Wolaita Sodo University students.
In this study, a substantial proportion of students were not knowledgeable. As university students are the educated segment of the population, are expected to be the next leaders of the nation, this level of knowledge is far below adequate.
Around two third of the respondents did not accept that a married woman has the right to limit the number of her children according to her desire without her husband’s consent. Furthermore a large group did not know that a married woman has the right to say no to sex, regardless of her husband`s wishes. This finding was lower than that of a study conducted in US, Texas
]. This disparity might be because of the difference in culture and norm in which the two populations were brought up. Sex and sexuality are taboo in most Ethiopian cultures, resulting in reluctance to discuss and address sexual health issues
]. Furthermore, the Ethiopian society is highly patriarchal where women’s right is undermined
]. For most African societies, lack of knowledge on sexual matters entails safety as it is assumed that if adolescents are not exposed to such knowledge, the likelihood of getting involved, and consequently becoming victims, will be slim
Among the respondents, about one-fifth of the females and one-fourth of males agreed that a husband should get sex whenever he wants irrespective of his wife’s wish. This finding is better than a similar study conducted among Indian adolescents selected from five states representing different cultural settings, where above 40% of women agreed to it
]. This difference might be attributed to the difference in age and educational level of the study participants.
Students who came from urban areas were more likely to be knowledgeable compared to those who came from rural areas. The possible explanation for this scenario can be that students from towns relatively have better access to information through youth associations, youth centers, the media and the environment itself because most of NGO services are limited to urban areas. However, their counterparts from rural areas might lack such chances because of low awareness of the society which inhibits free and open discussion about reproductive and sexual issues.
Students who had attended private elementary and high schools were more likely to be knowledgeable than students from public schools. This finding is in contrary to the Nigerian study where students attending public schools were more aware of RSR than students from private schools
]. In Nigeria, NGOs working on RH give more emphasis to public schools than to the private schools. But in Ethiopia, the number of NGOs working in public elementary and high schools is low. Additionally, compared to public schools, most of the private schools are found in towns where the students are more familiar with this issue and have better access to youth centers and sexuality education. Anti HIV/AIDS and RH clubs are also relatively strong and functional in private schools. Besides, students of private schools are relatively from families with good educational and economic background compared to students from public schools.
Health sciences students were more likely to be knowledgeable than students in the faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). This might be due to courses that health science students are taking, such as RH which includes reproductive and sexual rights as a chapter. In addition, they can learn this specific topic in one or another way at least because their instructors are well familiarized and even experts on RH issues. Reproductive health service utilization has impact on the knowledge of reproductive and sexual rights. Students who utilized RH services were more likely to be knowledgeable than those who did not. This finding is in agreement with US study where users of RH services had more inclination towards reproductive health rights, and inconsistent contraceptive use was associated with low sexual assertiveness
]. The possible explanation can be that since the services are provided by expertise that can give clear and correct information and answer the questions of their clients, utilization of RH services increases the probability of getting counseling and accurate information which has a direct impact on the knowledge of sexual and reproductive rights.
Discussing reproductive and sexual issues affects the knowledge of reproductive and sexual rights in a positive way. Students who have ever had discussed RH issues were more likely to be knowledgeable than those who did not. This can be explained by the fact that knowledge gained through experience sharing during discussion can increase the knowledge of reproductive and sexual rights. This study has shared the limitations of cross-sectional studies i.e. the difficulty of determining causal relationships between variables. As a cross-sectional study requires respondents to remember information retrospectively, recall bias are the other potential limitations of this study. However, scientific procedures were employed to minimize possible effects. In addition, supervision, pretest of the data collection tool, and adequate training of data collectors and supervisors were utilized.