01.01.2012 Sexual health necessitates sexual rights
PLANeS. Sexual and reproductive health can and must be protected and promoted as a human right. PLANeS, the Swiss Foundation for Sexual and Reproductive Health (to be known as SEXUAL HEALTH Switzerland from the end of the year), actively supports this goal.
Sexual and reproductive health does not imply merely the absence of disease, for instance sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
Right to decide for oneself
The Programme of Action approved by 179 countries, including Switzerland, at the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 was a milestone in efforts to promote reproductive health. Besides gender equality and education, reproductive and sexual health was named as a major factor in sustainable development, and the focus was put on the right of the individual to decide freely whether, when and how many children to have. This implies the right to information and access to safe, effective and affordable contraceptive agents and to services in sexual and reproductive healthcare provision.
Thus, sexual and reproductive health is bound up with sexual rights that have to be understood as human rights. The work of PLANeS, the Swiss Foundation for Sexual and Reproductive Health, is based on this perception. As the accredited Swiss member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), PLANeS subscribes to the IPPF declaration on sexual rights. The declaration is a cornerstone of this NGO, the world’s largest in the field of sexual and reproductive health and active in over 170 countries.
Call for compulsory sexual health education
Young people are an important target group of PLANeS, which seeks to ensure that they all receive age-appropriate sexual health education throughout Switzerland. This right is currently under attack in Switzerland. By way of response, PLANeS has issued a public declaration containing three demands:
1. The introduction of compulsory sex education at all school levels
2. Enshrining of sex education in the school curricula of all cantons
3. The development of sex education programmes on a basis of cooperation between schools, parents and sexual health experts
Similar calls have also been voiced by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which, on the basis of an evaluation, recommends that Switzerland should introduce specific programmes on sex education and institutionalise them in its school curricula.
In Switzerland there are also many other issues, for instance pregnancy termination, which involve the need to defend sexual rights. Efforts must also be made to ensure that vulnerable groups such as migrant women are not disadvantaged in matters concerning sexual and reproductive health. Besides these specific issues, PLANeS attaches importance to ensuring that the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive health are also enshrined in Swiss law, for instance in the new federal law on prevention and health promotion. This could prove to be an important basis for a comprehensive and long-term Swiss sexual health strategy founded on sexual and reproductive rights.
From PLANeS to SEXUAL HEALTH Switzerland
As the Swiss umbrella organisation for cantonal advisory services on family planning, pregnancy, sexuality and sex education, PLANeS deploys a nation-wide professional network that helps promote sexual and reproductive health and achieve progress on the corresponding rights. These cantonal services provide information and advice on sexuality, partnership and contraception, thereby making an important contribution towards preventing unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV and other STIs. PLANeS is therefore also a partner of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in the implementation of the National Programme for HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (NPHS 2011–2017). PLANeS is furthermore responsible for important coordination and networking tasks, and it manages the web platform www.isis-info.ch on behalf of the FOPH and issues guidelines and brochures. In addition, the organisation sets quality standards for the training and continuing education of professionals in the field of sexual and reproductive health, working together with the universities of applied sciences and awarding appropriate professional qualification titles. At the political level, PLANeS runs the secretariat of the «Cairo+» parliamentary group.
At the international level, PLANeS cooperates closely with IPPF – currently as a partner of «Countdown 2015 Europe», a three-year European project in which 13 European countries participate under the leadership of IPPF and which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. PLANeS is to be renamed «SEXUAL HEALTH Switzerland» at year-end.
The PLANeS public declaration and call for sex education in schools can be signed on the PLANeS website: www.plan-s.ch