Sexual and reproductive rights
How can you be in charge of your own body when you are married at 14? Can you engage in safe sexual intercourse without appropriate information? Sexual rights aim to safeguard the sexual health of boys and girls, men and women. Sexual health implies that the sexual rights of each individual are respected, fulfilled and protected.
What is sexual health?
Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing with respect to sexuality. It implies more than the mere absence of disease, dysfunction or inadequacy. Sexual health demands a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships and enshrines the possibility of safe and enjoyable sexual encounters, free from compulsion, discrimination or violence.
The right to sexual health
Sexual health is inextricably linked to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. For example, young people will find it more difficult to engage in safe sex if they do not have access to information on relationships and sexuality. Women will not be able to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases if the use of condoms is not a subject for discussion. Girls who (have to) marry at a young age are at greater risk of becoming mothers early on and prone to all the health risks associated with this kind of teenage pregnancy.
Question of rights
A number of rights are fundamental to sexual health:
The application of existing human rights relating to both sexuality and sexual health is referred to as sexual rights.
What are sexual and reproductive rights?
Sexual rights protect the rights of all people to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due respect for others and within a framework that ensures they are protected from discrimination.
Reproductive rights refer to the basic right of all couples and individuals to freely determine the number of, gap between and time at which they want to have children, as well as the right to have access to appropriate information and means. Every human being has the right to determine his/her reproduction free from discrimination, compulsion and/or violence, as also stipulated in the human rights. (Cairo Programme of Action, International Conference on Population and Development, 1994).
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