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J Sex Res. 2013;50(3-4):367-91. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2013.764380.

Sexual rights: meanings, controversies, and sexual health promotion.

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, MD 21250, USA.


For nearly two decades the term sexual rights has been increasingly used in multiple disciplines, including family planning, public health, and sexology, as well as in advocacy campaigns for groups working to expand sexual health services and to promote nondiscrimination policies for those with nonnormative sexual or gender identities. International organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Association of Sexual Health, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have all presented lists of sexual rights and given arguments for why sexual rights are human rights. Nevertheless, I argue that a comprehensive understanding of human/sexual rights is lacking not only by many in sexuality fields but also by the vast majority of the general public. I agree with those who stress that applications of sexual rights are often not straightforward; rather they involve complexities and critical analyses of multiple areas. In this article, I discuss principles of human rights and rights-based approaches to sexual health policies, describe conceptualizations of sexual rights, and present views about controversies and advantages of using sexual rights frameworks. My aim is to promote an understanding of discourses about and applications of sexual rights. Such understanding can be a starting point for those who want to integrate rights principles into their work.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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