Towards a Sexual Ethics of Rights and Responsibilities
Posted: 25 Oct 2009
Date Written: May 2009
Sexual rights as human rights encompass individual freedoms and social entitlements. Both depend for their realisation on equally important social responsibilities on the part of individuals, couples, families, other social institutions, and the State. The principle that all persons must understand their own sexual rights and responsibilities and respect the equal rights of others − particularly those of their sexual partners − informs our interpretation of the ethical basis of sexual behaviours. We propose a conceptual framework for defining a sexual ethics of equal rights and responsibilities pertaining to five dimensions of sexual behaviour: 1) sexual relationships and the right to choose one’s partner; 2) sexual expression and the right to seek pleasure; 3) sexual consequences and the right to cooperation from one’s partner; 4) sexual harm and the right to protection; and 5) sexual health and the right to information, education and health services. We suggest that the ethical principles presented here pertaining to sexual partnerships should be incorporated into sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health services, and social policies aimed at promoting the health and rights of all persons regardless of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and other personal or group identities.
Keywords: sexual rights, sexual responsibilities, sexual ethics, sexual health, sexual pleasure
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