Sexual and reproductive health and rights

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Sexual and reproductive health and rights or SRHR is the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction. It is a combination of four fields that in some contexts are more or less distinct from each other, but less so or not at all in other contexts. These four fields are sexual health, sexual rights, reproductive health and reproductive rights. In the concept of SRHR, these four fields are treated as separate but inherently intertwined.

Distinctions between these four fields are not always made. Sexual health and reproductive health are sometimes treated as synonymous to each other, as are sexual rights and reproductive rights. In some cases, sexual rights are included in the term sexual health, or vice versa.[1] Not only do different non governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments[2] use different terminologies, but different terminologies are often used within the same organization.

Some of the notable global NGOs that fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights include IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation), ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Alliance)), WAS (World Association for Sexual Health - formerly known as World Association for Sexology), and International HIV/AIDS Alliance.[3][4]

Sexual Health

The World Health Organization[5] defines sexual health as: "Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It 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."

Sexual Rights

Unlike the other three aspects of SRHR, the struggle for sexual rights include, and focus on, sexual pleasure and emotional sexual expression. One platform for this struggle is the WAS Declaration of Sexual Rights.

The Platform for Action from the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women established that human rights include the right of women freely and without coercion, violence or discrimination, to have control over and make decisions concerning their own sexuality, including their own sexual and reproductive health.[6] This paragraph has been interpreted by some countries[7] as the applicable definition of women’s sexual rights. The UN Commission on Human Rights has established that if women had more power, their ability to protect themselves against violence would be strengthened.[8]

At the 14th World Congress of Sexology (Hong Kong, 1999), the WAS adopted the Universal Declaration of Sexual Rights, which includes 11 sexual rights:

  1. The right to sexual freedom.
  2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body.
  3. The right to sexual privacy.
  4. The right to sexual equity.
  5. The right to sexual pleasure.
  6. The right to emotional sexual expression.
  7. The right to sexually associate freely.
  8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices.
  9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry.
  10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education.
  11. The right to sexual health care.

This Declaration gave an influence on The Yogyakarta Principles (which were launched as a global charter for gay rights on 26 March 2007), especially on the idea of each person's integrity, and right to sexual and reproductive health.

In 2015 the U.S. government said it would begin using the term "sexual rights" in discussions of human rights and global development.[9]

Reproductive Health

Within the framework of the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene, addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life.[10] Reproductive health, therefore, implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. One interpretation of this implies that men and women ought to be informed of and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; also access to appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education programs to stress the importance of women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth could provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. On the other hand, individuals do face inequalities in reproductive health services. Inequalities vary based on socioeconomic status, education level, age, ethnicity, religion, and resources available in their environment. It is possible for example, that low income individuals lack the resources for appropriate health services and the knowledge to know what is appropriate for maintaining reproductive health.[11]

Reproductive Rights

Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health.[12] The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:

Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.[13]


  1. For example, the IPPF Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights include (but is not limited to) the rights to sexual health and reproductive health.
  2. One of the governments that favor the term "Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights" over the alternatives is the Swedish government. See Sweden's international policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,
  3. For more about International HIV/AIDS alliance and SRHR, start at
  4. For example "EuroNGOs" is a network containing 35 NGOs that work with SRHR issues.
  5. See
  6. Beijing Platform for Action, paragraphs 92, 93 and 96
  7. According to "Sweden's international policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights", downloadable at:
  8. E/CN.4/RES/2005/84 and E/CN.4/RES/2005/41
  9. "US government says it will now use the term 'sexual rights'". 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2015-09-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "WHO: Reproductive health". Retrieved 2008-08-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Hall, Kelli Stidham, Caroline Moreau, and James Trussell. "Determinants Of And Disparities In Reproductive Health Service Use Among Adolescent And Young Adult Women In The United States, 2002-2008." American Journal Of Public Health 102.2 (2012): 359-367. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Nov. 2012
  12. Cook, Rebecca J.; Mahmoud F. Fathalla (September 1996). "Advancing Reproductive Rights Beyond Cairo and Beijing". International Family Planning Perspectives. International Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 3. 22 (3): 115–121. doi:10.2307/2950752. JSTOR 2950752. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Gender and reproductive rights home page