Why sexual rights in addition to reproductive rights?

In 1994, governments from around the world affirmed at the ICPD in Cairo that reproductive rights embrace certain human rights, and must be protected, which were reaffirmed again in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Yet, 20 years on, the struggle for the universal recognition of sexual rights in addition to reproductive rights continues.

While interlinked, sexual and reproductive rights are not interchangeable terms. This distinction is important because “sexual rights” involve recognizing that sexuality is an integral part of who we all are throughout our whole lives, can be expressed in various ways, and goes beyond our reproductive biology, roles and capabilities.[1] Sexual rights thus encompass the following:

–       The right to choose whether, with whom, and how one engages in sexual relations;

–       The right to privacy, freedom of expression, bodily autonomy and integrity;

–       The right to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, empowering people to make safer, consensual and fulfilling choices around sex and relationships;

–       The right to make free and informed choices in relation to one’s sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and live free from discrimination, coercion and violence.

If the Post-2015 Agenda is to have a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach to women’s health, the sexual rights of all people must be recognized.

As such, we call on governments to ensure that the Post-2015 Development Agenda recognizes the sexual rights (including the right to pleasure) of all people, including those who are most marginalized, such as young people and adolescents[2], persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI), persons living with disabilities, sex workers, HIV affected women and girls, indigenous and rural women, among others; where all people are able to have safe and full sex lives, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.


[1]“While there is obviously an intimate relationship between sexual health and reproductive health, ICPD and the Fourth World Conference on Women recognize that sexual health and reproductive health are also different and distinct dimensions of human well-being.”Report of the Special Rapporteur, Paul Hunt, The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health E/CN.4/2004/49 (16 February 2004) para 20. http://www.ifhhro.org/images/stories/ifhhro/documents_UN_special_rapporteur/3_4_5.pdf

[2]Governments must fund and develop, in equal partnership with young people and health care providers, policies, laws, and programs that recognize, promote, and protect young peoples’ sexual rights as human rights. This must be developed in accordance with the principles of human rights, non-discrimination, respect, equality and inclusivity, with a gendered, multicultural and secular approach. Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration (INSERT COMPLETE REFERENCE (Para. 36): http://icpdbeyond2014.org/uploads/browser/files/bali_global_youth_forum_declaration.pdf