What Is Sexual Health

A good starting-point is the World Health Organisation's (WHO) definition of sexual health outlined below:

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled (WHO, 2002 internet).

In this definition the WHO strives to acknowledge the complexities of sexual relationships and the importance of respect and consideration for others in achieving individual sexual health. In considering absence of disease, freedom from coercion and violence and respect of all persons the definition allows us to consider sexual health from a human perspective. This definition is important in that it recognises the gender and power conflicts that exist in sexual relationships and also the diversity of human beings and their sexual orientations and choices.

More recently the Department of Health (DH) has similarly proposed that sexual health is an important part of physical and mental health and that it is a 'key part of our identity as human beings together with the fundamental rights to privacy, family life and living free from discrimination' (DH, 2001).

The WHO also gives consideration to sexual rights that should be an integral part of any discussion considering how people can achieve sexual health.

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