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Know your rights

Sunday, December 1, 2013


December 10 is International Human Rights Day. Sexual rights are a component of human rights.

Everyone has the right to attain the highest standard of health. To do this, they must be able to exercise choice in their sexual and reproductive lives. They must also feel confident and safe in expressing their own sexual identity.

Your sexual and reproductive health rights

Family Planning supports the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s (IPPF) declaration of sexual rights.

The declaration outlines 10 sexual rights:

  1. The right to quality, equal protection of the law and freedom from all forms of discrimination based on sex, sexuality or gender. 
  2. The right to participation for all persons, regardless of sex, sexuality or gender. 
  3. The rights to life, liberty, security of the person and bodily integrity. 
  4. The right to privacy. 
  5. The right to personal autonomy and recognition before the law. 
  6. The right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression; the right to association.
  7. The right to health and to the benefits of scientific progress.
  8. The right to education and information.
  9. The right to choose whether or not to marry and to found and plan a family, and to decide whether or not, how and when, to have children. 
  10. The right to accountability and redress. 

What does this mean?

These sexual and reproductive health rights are an evolving set of entitlements that contribute to the freedom, equality, privacy, autonomy, integrity and dignity of all people.

In particular, the IPPF’s declaration is based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination. This means that everyone should be treated the same, whether they are young or old, male or female, gay or straight or anywhere in between.

These rights also mean that you are entitled to the information and services you need to help you make choices about your sexual reproductive health and attain the highest level of health.

No one can take these rights from you

In May 2013 the media reported a story about a doctor refusing to provide contraception for a client. According to the reports, the doctor was reluctant to refer the woman to another clinician who would be willing to provide contraception.

This is a violation of the client’s rights. If you go to a clinician and he or she conscientiously objects to providing contraception, it is your right to ask for a referral to someone who will.

More recently, the Roastbusters story highlights the issue of rights around consent to sex. Consent is both people saying and showing “yes” to any sexual activity.

Having sex with someone who is too drunk to give their consent is a violation of their rights. It is also potentially criminal.

Realising your rights

Sexual and reproductive health rights are laid out in international human rights treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New Zealand has ratified a number of these treaties so the Government is legally obliged to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.

As an individual, you also have responsibilities to uphold human rights and exercise your rights responsibly.

Read the IPPF declaration to learn more about your sexual and reproductive rights.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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