Sexual health from a feminist perspective

Sexual health from a feminist perspective is looking at it through violence against women

  • 09/09/2020
  • 19:54 hrs
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Sexual health from a feminist perspective
Sexual health from a feminist perspective (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

When thinking about sexual health, contraception methods unquestionably come to mind, but it is much more than that. Especially the sexual health of women is affected by the violence against which they fight daily.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health is "a state of physical, mental, and social well-being concerning sexuality." It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relations and the possibility of having pleasant and safe sexual experiences, free from all coercion, discrimination, and violence.

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Sexual health from a feminist perspective

Sexual health from a female perspective goes beyond the typical lessons on reproductive health given in elementary schools since sex education is not limited to teaching and learning the reproductive organs' functioning.

Ada Caridad Alfonso Rogriguez, a renowned physician from the Social Medicine Section of the Cuban Public Health Society, said during a symposium on sexual and reproductive health in Cuba that, to understand the current conception of sexual health, it is  necessary to

"look back at the last decades of the previous century, where reproductive health was stripped of its traditional biological clothing focused on maternal and child health in the private sphere, to measure those other components  not intended for reproduction of the species but the pleasure and the loving encounter "

In this sense, moving from the conception of reproductive health to comprehensive sexual health has been a constant struggle. Among other things, it includes the debates and confrontations between fertility regulation and public policies related to reproduction and the right to women to physical integrity and decide on their bodies.

For this reason, Ada Caridad mentions that it is women who have promoted and accompanied in the international arena the vision of sexual and reproductive health, sexual and reproductive rights as human rights, and have promoted gender equality as a category of analysis in the field of sexual health.

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Debts around sexual and reproductive rights

Despite the struggles won over women's sexual and reproductive rights, there are many things still pending. One of them is comprehensive sex education, which in Mexico is currently threatened by the vision of conservative sectors that promote initiatives such as the Parental PIN. Another of the debts, specifically marked in Latin American territories, is women's inability to access safe abortions. In Mexico, only two states of the republic have decriminalized abortion.

Sexual health and violence

The situation of women's sexual health becomes even more worrying when it intersects with the violence factor. UN Women recognizes that violence against women and girls harms both their sexual and reproductive health and their mental health, an issue for which it is essential. All women and girls who survive violence, especially sexual violence, can access various sexual and reproductive health services and psychosocial care and counseling. The sexual and reproductive health of women and girls is not identifiable in places where, for example, girls are still allowed to marry (forcibly) adult men. According to UN Women, "married girls cannot effectively negotiate safer sex, which makes them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections."

Genital mutilation

Another way of looking at women's sexual health through violence is genital mutilation cases that affect thousands of women. Data from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) indicate that each year, around four million girls around the world are at risk of being victims of female genital mutilation, and most subjected to this practice before turning 15 years old.

More than 90% of women and girls in Guinea and Somalia are exposed to genital mutilation or cutting.

Mutilation, or female genital cutting, is performed on women and girls to alter or injure their genital organs. There are no medical recommendations to justify such a practice. According to UNICEF, it constitutes a violation of the fundamental human rights of girls and women.

Genital mutilation does not offer any health benefits; on the contrary, it has long-term physical and psychological consequences. The most common physical effects are severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility, or death.

The psychological consequences range from the girl's loss of confidence to anxiety and depression.

Traducción: Valentina K. Yanes