Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Affirming Sexual Freedom as a Fundamental Human Right

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Key Issues

In order to fully embrace the breadth and diversity of issues that fall under the umbrella of “sexual freedom as a fundamental human right” it is helpful to establish working definitions of the language of the sexual freedom movement.

Sexual freedom is the fundamental human right of all individuals to develop and express their unique sexuality. It lies at the heart of the promise of human dignity, self-determination, and equality embodied in both the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights are interdependent, intersectional, inalienable rights that are the birthright of all human beings, regardless of geography, nationality or identity. Human rights include economic rights, environmental rights, sexual rights, cultural rights, social rights, political rights, developmental rights and civil rights.

Sex, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) working definition, refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. While these sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, they tend to differentiate humans as males and females. In general use in many languages, the term sex is often used to mean “sexual activity”, but for technical purposes in the context of sexuality and sexual health discussions, the above definition is preferred.

Sexual health, according to the current working WHO definition, is:  “…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation 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.” (WHO, 2006a)

Sexuality

Sexual health cannot be defined, understood or made operational without a broad consideration of sexuality, which underlies important behaviors 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, behaviors, 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)

Sexual rights
There is a growing consensus that sexual health cannot be achieved and maintained without respect for, and protection of, certain human rights. The working definition of sexual rights given below is a contribution to the continuing dialogue on human rights related to sexual health (1).

“The fulfillment 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:

  • Rights critical to the realization of sexual health include:
  • the rights to equality and non-discrimination
  • the right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment
  • the right to privacy
  • the rights to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security
  • 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
  • the right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children
  • the rights to information, as well as education
  • the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and
  • the right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.

The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.” (WHO, 2006a, updated 2010)  (1) It should be noted that this definition does not represent an official WHO position and should not be used or quoted as such. It is offered instead as a contribution to ongoing discussion about sexual health.

SEXUAL FREEDOM ISSUES

What are some of the issues we embrace under the broad umbrella of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right?

  • Freedom of Sexual Speech and Expression
  • Sexual and Gender Privacy
  • Sex Workers’ Rights
  • Sexual Health
  • HIV/AIDS and STIs
  • Healthy Sexual Activity
  • Human Rights
  • Civil Rights
  • Reproductive Justice
  • Women’s Rights
  • LGBTQ Rights
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • Protection of Personal Freedoms
  • Integration of Sex with Religion
  • Racial Justice

When we affirm these rights, we are validating the existence of this right and expressing our dedication to sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

Key Issues

  • Sex Work

    Sex Work

    Sex work refers to a wide range of activity where sexual interaction is explicitly exchanged for something of value.

  • Sexual Speech and Expression

    Sexual Speech & Expression

    WSFA firmly believes that human beings possess a fundamental right to develop and express their sexuality.

  • Sexual Health & Rights

    Sexual Health & Rights

    Sexual Health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well being in relation to sexuality.

  • Integration of Sex and Religion

    Integration of Sex & Religion

    Sexuality and faith are two of the most deeply important and deeply personal aspects of human identity.

  • LGBT Rights

    LGBT Rights

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are entitled to the realization of the full spectrum of their human rights.

  • Civil Rights

    Civil Rights

    Civil rights are one sub-set of human rights that exist equal to and interdependent with multiple fundamental human rights.

  • Reproductive Rights

    Reproductive Justice

    Grounded in the human rights framework, reproductive justice refers to all of the conditions necessary for all people to enjoy reproductive freedom.

  • Sexuality Education

    Sexuality Education

    Every human being deserves access to medically accurate and inclusive information about sex and sexuality.

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