Under international human rights law, all persons have the right to control and decide freely on matters related to their sexuality; to be free from violence, coercion, or intimidation in their sexual lives; to 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.
Respect: States must refrain from interfering with or limiting the enjoyment of human rights.
Protect: States must protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.
Fulfill: States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.
The right to sexual and reproductive health, combined with the right to education and the right to non-discrimination and equality between men and women, entails a right to education on sexuality and reproduction that is comprehensive, non-discriminatory, evidence-based, scientifically accurate and age appropriate.
‒ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/GC/22, para. 9)
Sexual rights (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):
- Comprehensive sexuality education
- Criminalization and other restrictions on safe abortion
- Gender based discrimination
- Early and forced marriage
- Female genital mutilation
- Gender-based violence
- Gender equality
- Gender identities and expressions
- HIV / AIDS
- Maternal morbidity & mortality
- Reproductive rights
- Rights of intersex people
- Rights of sex workers
- Sexual orientation
- Sexual rights of young people
Sexual rights are part of existing human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to life, to privacy, to freedom of thought and expression, to freedom from violence, to education and information, to equality, to freedom from all forms of discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health.
These rights are set out and endorsed in the following international conventions, treaties, and documents:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention Against Torture (CAT)
- Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW)
- Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA)
- Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA)