Research Topic

Social norms, intersectionality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in low and middle income countries

About this Research Topic

Social norms play an important role influencing sexual and reproductive health and rights. While sexual and reproductive health is broadly used, the concept has two major dimensions that need to be appreciated. According to World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health is used to mean sexual orientation, relationships, gender identity, pleasure, sexual expression, STIs, sexual dysfunction, sexual violence, unintended pregnancy, abortion and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation or cutting. On the other hand, reproductive health refers to a complete state of physical, mental, social well-being and not a mere absence of disease. Reproductive health also includes the ability to have a satisfying and safer sex life, ability to reproduce, and make choices of the number, when and how to have children, avoiding reproduction, access to contraception and termination of pregnancy. However, while sexual health and reproductive health can be conceptualized differently, the two concepts are interrelated and often share similar risks, needs and practices. Moreover, sexual health and reproductive health may be affected by similar social norms in different contexts. Yet, not much is still known about how norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), the methods to effectively measure the impact of norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the interventions that are effective in facilitating change in social norms related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the ethical challenges related to the three points above.

The emergence of COVID-19 has disrupted access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. Yet, there is limited information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. This is happening in the context of social norms that may negatively influence access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. There is therefore the need to understand how COVID-19 has affected social norms and the implications on access to SRH services. There are also reports that indicate an increase in violence, but there is limited evidence on the intersections between violence and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frontiers in Sociology is launching the Research Topic “Social norms, intersectionality and sexual and reproductive health and rights”. Papers exploring how COVID-19 affected social norms related to sexual and reproductive health and rights will be of great interest. More generally, we are interested in papers that either look exclusively at the nexus between social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights, or that specifically investigate how social norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights as it intersects with family violence, including intimate partner violence and violence against children. Papers that provide a discussion on the challenges to accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights especially to patriarchal and heteronormative forces and social institutions are welcome. Manuscripts related to LMIC will be given priority, but papers reporting studies conducted in high income countries might exceptionally be included. Manuscripts can be in the form of case studies, reviews, empirical work, case reports, conceptual papers, practice-based learning, methodological and intervention research.

We welcome original research papers from different disciplines and domains that demonstrate critical thinking, reflective learning, and empirical work. Papers can come from sociology, social anthropology, psychology, clinical sciences, public health, education, social work, demography or population studies, statistics, development economics, among others.

All papers submitted to this special call should address one or more of the following four sub-themes:

1. Empirical evidence of how social norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights in different ways based on different intersections
This first sub-theme aims to examine how social norms influence sexual and reproductive health and rights in the global South. We encourage original manuscripts that use primary or existing datasets. Manuscripts can cover one or more of the following research questions: How do social norms affect sexual behavior? How do social norms affect access and uptake of sexual and reproductive health and rights services among different population groups and contexts? What is the intersection between social norms, uptake of sexual and reproductive health and rights services and violence? How do social norms affect help seeking behavior among survivors of violence? What are the intersections between global pandemics such as COVID-19, social norms, sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence?

2. Methods to assess social norms, intersectionality, sexual and reproductive health and rights or violence
This sub-theme will examine the methods used to explore, assess and measure social norms that may affect sexual and reproductive health and rights. Manuscripts under this sub-theme will address the following questions: What methods can be used to measure social norms among population groups in different contexts? What are the challenges and innovations to measuring social norms that influence sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence? What are the ethical dilemmas related to measuring social norms that affect sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence? What are the experiences, lessons learned and promising practices in the process of building capacity for research and measurement of social norms?

3. Interventions that address social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights
This sub-theme will address interventions that have demonstrated evidence to shifting social norms that affect sexual and reproductive health and rights (including sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence). We encourage manuscripts that use empirical data to demonstrate evidence of interventions that aim to facilitate change in social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (and violence prevention/response). Manuscripts can cover one or more of the following questions: What interventions are effective at shifting social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights? What interventions work to shift the norms at the nexus between sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence?

4. Conceptual and reflective papers on social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights
The last sub-theme examines the history and the theoretical underpinnings of social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights in different contexts in the Global South. We seek manuscripts that examine the following issues: What is the uptake of social norms theory in the disciplines studying sexual and reproductive health and rights? What frameworks help explain the influence of social norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights across populations and settings? How do power dynamics affect how sexual and reproductive health and rights frameworks developed in the Global North are used and adapted in the Global South? What models developed in the Global South can offer alternative explanations of the influence of social norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and/or alternative goals for the sexual and reproductive health and rights field? What social norms exist in the community of those working for sexual and reproductive health and rights that affect conceptualization and implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions? What are the ethical challenges presented to grant-makers and programme designers who intend to implement cross-cultural sexual and reproductive health and rights programmes?


Keywords: Social Norms, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, COVID-19, Gender-Based Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Violence Against Children, Global South


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Social norms play an important role influencing sexual and reproductive health and rights. While sexual and reproductive health is broadly used, the concept has two major dimensions that need to be appreciated. According to World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health is used to mean sexual orientation, relationships, gender identity, pleasure, sexual expression, STIs, sexual dysfunction, sexual violence, unintended pregnancy, abortion and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation or cutting. On the other hand, reproductive health refers to a complete state of physical, mental, social well-being and not a mere absence of disease. Reproductive health also includes the ability to have a satisfying and safer sex life, ability to reproduce, and make choices of the number, when and how to have children, avoiding reproduction, access to contraception and termination of pregnancy. However, while sexual health and reproductive health can be conceptualized differently, the two concepts are interrelated and often share similar risks, needs and practices. Moreover, sexual health and reproductive health may be affected by similar social norms in different contexts. Yet, not much is still known about how norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), the methods to effectively measure the impact of norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the interventions that are effective in facilitating change in social norms related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the ethical challenges related to the three points above.

The emergence of COVID-19 has disrupted access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. Yet, there is limited information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. This is happening in the context of social norms that may negatively influence access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. There is therefore the need to understand how COVID-19 has affected social norms and the implications on access to SRH services. There are also reports that indicate an increase in violence, but there is limited evidence on the intersections between violence and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frontiers in Sociology is launching the Research Topic “Social norms, intersectionality and sexual and reproductive health and rights”. Papers exploring how COVID-19 affected social norms related to sexual and reproductive health and rights will be of great interest. More generally, we are interested in papers that either look exclusively at the nexus between social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights, or that specifically investigate how social norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights as it intersects with family violence, including intimate partner violence and violence against children. Papers that provide a discussion on the challenges to accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights especially to patriarchal and heteronormative forces and social institutions are welcome. Manuscripts related to LMIC will be given priority, but papers reporting studies conducted in high income countries might exceptionally be included. Manuscripts can be in the form of case studies, reviews, empirical work, case reports, conceptual papers, practice-based learning, methodological and intervention research.

We welcome original research papers from different disciplines and domains that demonstrate critical thinking, reflective learning, and empirical work. Papers can come from sociology, social anthropology, psychology, clinical sciences, public health, education, social work, demography or population studies, statistics, development economics, among others.

All papers submitted to this special call should address one or more of the following four sub-themes:

1. Empirical evidence of how social norms affect sexual and reproductive health and rights in different ways based on different intersections
This first sub-theme aims to examine how social norms influence sexual and reproductive health and rights in the global South. We encourage original manuscripts that use primary or existing datasets. Manuscripts can cover one or more of the following research questions: How do social norms affect sexual behavior? How do social norms affect access and uptake of sexual and reproductive health and rights services among different population groups and contexts? What is the intersection between social norms, uptake of sexual and reproductive health and rights services and violence? How do social norms affect help seeking behavior among survivors of violence? What are the intersections between global pandemics such as COVID-19, social norms, sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence?

2. Methods to assess social norms, intersectionality, sexual and reproductive health and rights or violence
This sub-theme will examine the methods used to explore, assess and measure social norms that may affect sexual and reproductive health and rights. Manuscripts under this sub-theme will address the following questions: What methods can be used to measure social norms among population groups in different contexts? What are the challenges and innovations to measuring social norms that influence sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence? What are the ethical dilemmas related to measuring social norms that affect sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence? What are the experiences, lessons learned and promising practices in the process of building capacity for research and measurement of social norms?

3. Interventions that address social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights
This sub-theme will address interventions that have demonstrated evidence to shifting social norms that affect sexual and reproductive health and rights (including sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence). We encourage manuscripts that use empirical data to demonstrate evidence of interventions that aim to facilitate change in social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (and violence prevention/response). Manuscripts can cover one or more of the following questions: What interventions are effective at shifting social norms to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights? What interventions work to shift the norms at the nexus between sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence?

4. Conceptual and reflective papers on social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights
The last sub-theme examines the history and the theoretical underpinnings of social norms and sexual and reproductive health and rights in different contexts in the Global South. We seek manuscripts that examine the following issues: What is the uptake of social norms theory in the disciplines studying sexual and reproductive health and rights? What frameworks help explain the influence of social norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights across populations and settings? How do power dynamics affect how sexual and reproductive health and rights frameworks developed in the Global North are used and adapted in the Global South? What models developed in the Global South can offer alternative explanations of the influence of social norms on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and/or alternative goals for the sexual and reproductive health and rights field? What social norms exist in the community of those working for sexual and reproductive health and rights that affect conceptualization and implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions? What are the ethical challenges presented to grant-makers and programme designers who intend to implement cross-cultural sexual and reproductive health and rights programmes?


Keywords: Social Norms, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, COVID-19, Gender-Based Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Violence Against Children, Global South


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 October 2021 Abstract
31 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 October 2021 Abstract
31 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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