Laws governing access to sexual health services and information: contents, protections, and restrictions

Case Studies & Research
18 p.
Periodical title
Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 32, 1

Access to sexual health services and information is critical to achieving the highest attainable standard of sexual health, and enabling legal environments are key to advancing progress in this area. In determining overall alignment with human rights standards to respect, protect, and fulfil sexual health-related rights without discrimination, there are many aspects of laws, including their specificity and content, which impact which sexual health services and information are availed, which are restricted, and for whom. To understand the nature of existing legal provisions surrounding access to sexual health services and information, we analysed the content of 40 laws in English, French, and Spanish from 18 countries for the specific sexual health services and information to which access is ensured or prohibited, and the non-discrimination provisions within these laws. Overall, there was wide variation across countries in the types of laws covering these services and the types and number of services and information ensured. Some countries covered different services through multiple laws, and most of the laws dedicated specifically to sexual health addressed only a narrow aspect of sexual health and covered a small range of services. The protected characteristics in non-discrimination provisions and the specificity of these provisions with regard to sexual health services also varied. Findings may inform national legal and policy dialogues around sexual health to identify opportunities for positive change, as well as to guide further investigation to understand the relationship between such legal provisions, the implementation of these laws within countries, and relevant sexual health outcomes.