New outcomes for sexual health promotion

Case Studies & Research
7 p.
Periodical title
Health Education Research, 29 (4): 547-553

Numerous definitions of sexual health have been developed over the past few years. Perhaps the best known and most widely accepted of them is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) working definition, which reads as follows: ". . . 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."
Such a definition is important in several respects. First, it draws attention to the aspirational character of sexual health, as a ‘goal that needs to be worked towards’. Second, it stresses the positive aspects of sexual health as a tangible ‘presence’, not simply the absence of difficulties, problems, illness and disease. Third, it links sexual health to human sexuality in all its richness and diversity and to questions of values and rights. People need to be free to develop their sexuality in ways that pleasurable, safe and respectful of others, and in a manner protected by fundamental human rights—to health, to education, to protection and so on.

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