Sexual health and rights of young people
Rutgers works with young people in all their diversity so they can enjoy their sexual and reproductive health and rights in societies where there is equity and equality between genders in all aspects of life.
“Rutgers upholds the right of everyone to enjoy and experience their own sexuality in a positive and safe way.”
Young people’s rights under pressure
Young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are consistently denied, ignored or unmet in many communities and countries. Many cannot access the right information and education, services and care.
Young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are under pressure around the world in the face of taboos, shrinking civic space and growing conservatism.
This is due to exclusion and gaps in provision driven by prevailing cultural, social and religious norms and values, as well as traditional gender roles.
Taboos leave young people feeling ashamed and uninformed about their sexuality. On top of the negative health impact young people face, gender stereotypes and inequality cause stigmatisation, discrimination and violence. There is the particular exclusion of girls and young women.
But all is not doom and gloom. Young people are increasingly at the forefront of claiming their rights. More and more they are obtaining the knowledge and skills to navigate societal obstacles to be free to enjoy their sexuality and relationships.
Our work on sexual rights for young people
Rutgers upholds the right of everyone to make their own choices on their body and relationships, enjoy a healthy sex life and experience their own sexuality in a positive, safe way, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
In our work, we focus particularly on those young people that are under-represented, such as girls and young women and young LGTBQI+ people.
We do that by:
- Providing comprehensive sexuality education to ensure young people have the knowledge and competencies to navigate ideologies, values, needs and practices related to gender and sexuality present in society.
- Improving existing sexual and reproductive health services: initially adopting a minimum package of youth-friendly services and later more progressive packages. Strengthening the knowledge and practices of health workers is vital to increase and improve their skills and attitudes towards young people, particularly underserved groups.
- Creating an enabling environment in which young people are supported to seek and receive sexuality information and services. Specific attention is needed to create more parental, community and political acceptance of young people’s sexuality and support for the sexual rights of underserved groups.
The benefits of improved sexual and reproductive health and rights are many. They lead to better health outcomes and sexual wellbeing for young people and advance gender equality.
The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic stalled progress in the field of sexuality. In many countries, where some health services continued, sexuality education, reproductive health services and access to safe abortion were often not seen as essential.
Combined with the effects of lockdowns, sexual rights have been violated more than before. This has harmed many lives and made us steadfast in continuing our work.
Amplifying young people’s voices
We are unleashing the power of youth to transform gender and power relations by reinforcing positive norms and values and increase public support for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We are strengthening the capacity of young people on advocacy, dealing with opposition, youth participation and leadership and gender-transformative approaches.
Our youth-centred Right Here Right Now programme sees young people, especially girls, young women and young LGBTQI+ people, empowered to make decisions about their sexuality,
Power to You(th) works for more girls and young women to be meaningfully included in decision-making around harmful practices, like: female genital mutilation, child marriage.