World Sexual Health Day

World Sexual Health Day | 04/09

4th of September marks the World Sexual Health Day! 

Since 2010, WAS has invited many audiences to celebrate World Sexual Health and join this initiative to promote sexual health, well-being and rights for all.

This year’s theme is sexual health in a digital world and the motto is: “Turn it on: Sexual health in a digital world”

The reason for choosing the motto “Turn it on” is the message of igniting awareness of sexual health and sexual rights and enforcing them, as there are also many violations and abuses of sexual rights in the digital space.

Sexual health is relevant throughout a person’s life, through to adolescence and into older age – not only during their reproductive years. 

It is determined by the quality and safety of people’s relationships: with oneself and other individuals, with family and friends, and the society in which we live, including the gender norms that shape our experiences. These relationships are themselves dependent on whether everyone’s human rights related to their sexuality are realised and protected.

WHO’s working definition of sexual health emphasises a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, one that cannot be separated from sexual well-being:

“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” 

Sexual health cannot be defined, understood or made operational without a broad consideration of sexuality, which underlies important behaviours and outcomes related to sexual health. The working definition of sexuality is:

“… a central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” (WHO, 2006a)

There is a growing consensus that sexual health cannot be achieved and maintained without respect for, and protection of certain human rights.

The fulfilment of sexual health is tied to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in international and regional human rights documents and other consensus documents and in national laws.

Rights critical to the realization of sexual health include:

  1. the right to equality and non-discrimination
  2. the right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment
  3. the right to privacy
  4. the right to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security
  5. the right to marry and to found a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage
  6. the right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children
  7. the right to information and education
  8. the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and
  9. the right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging, and encompass: 

  • Birth Control, Pregnancy, and Abortion
  • Cancer
  • Consent and Sexual Assault
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Gender Identity
  • Harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation)
  • Health and Wellness
  • Sex, Pleasure, and Sexual Dysfunction
  • Sex and Relationships
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

What are the characteristics of a sexually healthy person

The American Sexual Health Association defines someone who is sexually healthy as possessing the following characteristics, behaviors, and belief systems around sex and relationships: 

  • They understand that sexuality is a natural part of someone’s life and involves more than just sexual behavior. 
  • They recognize that everyone has sexual rights.
  • They make safe, reliable efforts to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs. 
  • They are willing to utilize sexual health resources.
  • They can experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when they desire.
  • They can openly communicate about their sexual health and needs with intimate partners and healthcare providers when needed. 

Sexuality education aims to develop and strengthen the ability of children and young people to make conscious, satisfying, healthy and respectful choices regarding relationships, sexuality and emotional and physical health.

In Europe, sexuality education as a school curriculum subject has a history of more than half a century. It first began in Sweden in 1955, followed by many more Western European countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe the concept of “holistic sexuality education” is defined as follows:

“Learning about the cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality. Sexuality education starts early in childhood and progresses through adolescence and adulthood. For children and young people, it aims at supporting and protecting sexual development. It gradually equips and empowers children and young people with information,

skills and positive values to understand and enjoy their sexuality, have safe and fulfilling relationships and take responsibility for their own and other people’s sexual health and well-being.”

Good quality sexuality education does not lead to young people having sex earlier than is expected based on the national average. Sexuality education does not deprive children of their “innocence”. Sexuality education is not damaging to children or adolescents.6 Sexuality education encompasses a range of topics that are tailored to the age and developmental level of the child. This is what is called age-appropriateness

UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Their mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

UNFPA is working with governments, partners and other UN agencies to directly tackle many of the Sustainable Development Goals – in particular Goal 3 on health, Goal 4 on education and Goal 5 on gender equality – and contributes in a variety of ways to achieving many of the rest. 

Examples of the Goals and its targets that are directly linked to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are: 

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

> Ensure healthy life and promote well-being for all at all ages

3.1 By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes

3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all 

Goal 5: Gender Equality
> Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

> Reduce inequality within and among countries 

10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

10.3 Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard 

Goal 13: Climate Action 

> Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

13.2 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals 

> Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

17.18 By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high – quality, timely, and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts 

17.19 By 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries 


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