The U.S. government has announced that it will begin using the term “sexual rights” in talks relating to sexual and reproductive health issues globally. The remarks were made at a UN meeting this week.
Said Richard Erdman, Senior Advisor and Acting Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ambassador:
Our understanding of the term “sexual rights” draws heavily from paragraph 96 of the Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference. That language characterizes the human rights of women to include rights relating to sexuality and stresses equality between men and women in matters of sexual relations and sexuality. As a result, the United States understands the term “sexual rights” to include all individuals’ “right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.” With further reference to paragraph 96 of the Beijing Platform of Action, we note that “equal relationships between [individuals] in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences.” Finally, we wish to clarify that the United States will use the term “sexual rights” or “sexual and reproductive health and rights” to express rights that are not legally binding. Sexual rights are not human rights and they are not enshrined in international human rights law; our use of this term does not reflect a view that they are part of customary international law. It is, however, a critical expression of our support for the rights and dignity of all individuals regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The AP adds:
The Washington-based Center for Health and Gender Equity pointed out the statement Thursday and said it was delighted.
“On one level, it’s symbolic. It also sends a signal to the global community that sexual and reproductive health and rights are a part of the global development agenda,” Serra Sippel, the center’s president, told The Associated Press. She said it follows “huge strides” made under the Obama administration on LGBT issues.
The announcement comes days before more than 150 world leaders gather at the U.N. to launch an ambitious set of development goals, including one of gender equality. One of the agenda’s many targets is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by 2030.