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Intro to Sexual Rights

What Are Sexual Rights?

Human rights refer to every person’s freedoms and entitlements to live in dignity.  States assume obligations and duties under international law to:

Respect –  States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights.

Protect – requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.

Fulfil –  States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Under international human rights law all persons have the right to control and decide freely on matters related to their sexuality; be free from violence, coercion or intimidation in their sexual lives; have access to sexual and reproductive health care information, education and services; and to be protected from discrimination based on the exercise of their sexuality. These are known as human rights related to sexuality, or simply, sexual rights, and the government of every country in the world is required to respect, protect and fulfill these basic human rights.

Sexual Rights Issues

Human rights related to sexuality address a wide range of issues and often intersect with several other rights. Examples of sexual rights issues include (but are not limited to):

  • Bodily autonomy
  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • Criminalization and other restrictions on safe abortion
  • Discrimination against women and girls
  • Early and forced marriage
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Gender-based violence
  • Gender equality
  • Gender identities and expressions
  • Maternal morbidity & mortality
  • Reproductive rights
  • Rights of intersex people
  • Rights of sex workers
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual rights of young people

International Agreements Protecting and Promoting Sexual Rights

Sexual rights resonate profoundly within existing human rights norms and standards including the right to privacy, freedom of thought and expression, freedom from violence, the right to education and information, the right to equality, freedom from all forms of discrimination and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

These rights are set out and endorsed in the following international conventions, treaties and documents:

  • national sexual rights law and policy database

    Law and Policy Database

    The national sexual rights law and policy database is a one-stop-shop for sexual rights related Constitutions, laws and policies.

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  • UPR Toolkit

    UPR Toolkit

    This practical toolkit for sexual rights advocates is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.

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  • UPR Database

    UPR Database

    The SRI's UPR Database includes all sexual rights recommendations and references and is now open access.

    Launch the database»

  • CREA Logo


    Together with partners from a diverse range of human rights movements and networks, CREA works to advance the rights of women and girls, and the sexual and reproductive freedoms of all people.

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