Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Finland’s development policy

Sexuality is an essential and valuable part of being human. The rights associated with sexuality are development issues, too. Finland’s development policy supports the global realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) mean that everyone has the right to control their own sexuality and to decide freely and responsibly matters related to their sexuality without being subject to coercion, discrimination or violence. 

The realisation of SRHR is essential for human wellbeing and a balanced life. Sexuality is an essential and valuable part of being human. It is a fundamental human characteristic that develops throughout life. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are in many ways the most vulnerable human rights, and special attention must be paid to their realisation.

Discriminatory structures in societies undermine the realisation of SRHR. Such structures include discrimination based on gender, sexuality, age and disability. SRHR issues are a key part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (see especially goals 3 and 5). In other words, SRHR are development issues at the level of both individuals and society. 

It is important to address sexual and reproductive health and rights as a whole. SRHR comprise both health and legal aspects. The term consists of four concepts:

  • Sexual rights guarantee everyone the right to self-determination in matters related to sexuality. They include the right to sexuality education and sexual health services, the right to self-determination and the right to pleasure. A definition of sexual rights is available in the 2008 Declaration on Sexual Rights by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), among other documents. The sexual rights listed in the declaration are based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other treaties.

  • Reproductive rights guarantee everyone the right to decide freely on their reproduction and related matters. They include the right to modern contraception and the right to infertility treatments, if necessary.

  • Sexual health is part of comprehensive human wellbeing and it includes a respectful attitude to sexuality and opportunities to pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. A condition for good sexual health is access to sexuality-related treatment and counselling. Sexual health includes such services as prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, treatment of sexual dysfunctions, and sexual counselling.

  • Reproductive health is part of reproductive wellbeing. A condition for good reproductive health is access to quality reproductive health services and to versatile information about reproduction. Reproductive health includes necessary quality services during pregnancy and childbirth, maternity health services, and prevention and treatment of childlessness. 

Finland promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) comprehensively and therefore uses the full term, which includes sexual health services, sexuality education, contraception, maternity health services, consent, and the right to safe abortion, among others. 

Finland supports the realisation of SRHR by using all available development policy means. We highlight the importance of SRHR in all work on health and gender equality matters, and we support international organisations active in the field and channel support to programmes and projects promoting SRHR in developing countries. In addition, Finland is constantly promoting private sector participation in SRHR matters.

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