Sexual Health: Do you know your rights?

Sexuality is an inseparable part of a human being, yet still there is not enough talk about sexual health and rights. Sex education, which is an integral part of sexual health and rights, has luckily been the subject of critical discussion recently. Like me and other children born in the 90’s are now adults, so the things we have learned about sexual health from health education classes have been forgotten a long time ago. 

Sexual health is a broad concept. According to the definition of the World Health Organization, it means a state of physical, mental, social and emotional sexual well-being of an individual. It is not just the absence of an injury or illness, and it is unfortunate that for example sexually transmitted infections are still used as an intimidation in sex education classes. The basis of sexual health is a positive and respectful attitude towards sexuality and demonization has no place in it. Sexuality is a lot more than just sex and it deserves to be seen as a resource that improves wellbeing. The importance of sexual health for overall well-being is undeniable, but taking care of it alone is not enough. Sexual rights must also be fulfilled. Rights also involve obligation. We are obligated to obey these rights that are scribed in international agreements.

So, do you know your sexual rights?

Everyone has absolutely the same sexual rights regardless of body, skin color, sexual orientation, personal background or any other matter. These include the right to physical integrity, equality and non-discrimination, information and sex education; the right to decide a partner, marriage, childbearing, number and timing of children; the right to a satisfactory and safe sex without coercion, violence or exploitation and the right to sexual and reproductive health services. 

In terms of sexual rights, sex education by providing education and services is the most valuable way to increase individuals awareness of their own rights. Knowing your own and others’ rights is essential for the perspective of fulfilling them. Everyone should also have the right to make responsible decisions based on factual information. Knowledge is not only a right, but also something that each of us needs, whether we are aware of it or not.

Sex education is about reaching equality between the sexes and individuals, that is, it aims for everyone’s interest, but it still involves an unfortunate number of taboos and misconceptions. These slow down and sometimes even prevent the sharing of factual information. All sexual rights are based on freedom, equality, privacy and self-determination, so the relationship between human rights and sexual health is unconditional. Looking at the big picture, fortunately the rights are actualized well in Finland, but there is still a lot to be done before we can say that the equality is really becoming true. I therefore hope that future generations will be free from discrimination and inequality and will respect the personal integrity and decision-making power of all.

Niina Helenius
Enjoys JYY’s The Subcommitee of Well-being meetings and dreams about saving the world