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call for papers

Sexuality, sexual rights and
sexual politics

volume 23   number 46   november 2015

Sexuality is an integral component of human existence. Fulfilling sexuality and protecting sexual rights are instrumental to achieving the highest attainable level of sexual health. Although sexuality can be deemed personal and private, it is often subject to power relations in both the private and public domains. It may require state regulation (or deregulation) and adequate resource allocation to ensure that people’s needs are met and their rights are protected. Thus, sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights are highly politicised.

In addition to its obvious links with reproduction, sexuality encompasses a variety of sexual needs, expressions and practices throughout the lifespan of human beings. Sexuality and rights associated with it include matters related to gender expression and identity, bodily integrity and sexual orientation, as well as embracing the diversity of sexual preferences and desires. Sexuality also converges with rights and health considerations related to various forms of sex work and is influenced by existing gender power structures and cultural and religious norms, all against a backdrop of diverse political forces aiming to control sex and sexuality. Though they are often neglected, sexual rights apply to everyone, including vulnerable populations, such as people living with disability or with HIV, and people in conflict settings and crisis situations.

Despite lack of an international consensus on the term “sexual rights”, sexual rights do exist.1,2,3 Legally binding human rights treaties have been applied by authoritative human rights bodies, such as national, regional and international courts and treaty monitoring bodies to a wide range of sexuality and sexual health-related matters. The body of these human rights standards build up the content and meaning of sexual rights.4 There is a growing demand for respect for these rights, and numerous efforts by international organisations and civil society to secure recognition of sexuality and sexual health as human rights over and above their role in reproduction.5,6 The recent adoption of a Human Rights Council resolution condemning violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an example of human rights bodies taking steps to assert some pressure on member states to change their legal frameworks. Similarly, the efforts of the international community to secure a prominent position for sexual and reproductive rights, as well as health, in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals are even more widely supported than was the case with the Millennium Development Goals. Though progress at the international level is cause for optimism, the sobering realities of national sexual politics paint a more troubling picture.

Since RHM’s inception, we have regularly dedicated journal issues to examining current advances related to sexuality and the intersection between sexuality, sexual health and rights. RHM is committed to continuing to provide a platform for evidence, analysis and opinions on these critical subjects and to serve as a catalyst to generate and disseminate evidence that can help keep the issues at the top of the political agenda.

This journal issue aims to examine the complex interrelations between sexuality and human rights. We encourage original studies that provide data and contribute to evidence across the spectrum of issues related to sexuality, sexual politics, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation that can inform policy and practice. We welcome qualitative and quantitative studies across disciplines. This includes implementation research and community-based research, as well as in-depth analysis and reviews on issues related to various sexual expressions and behaviours and the impact of enabling, disabling and punitive laws and policies on the health and well-being of individuals. Commentary and opinion pieces are also welcome.

Examples of topics that can be addressed in this issue are:

  • Sex and sexual rights: consent, agency, responsibility and bodily integrity
  • Intersection of gender identity, sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights
  • Sexual coercion, torture, violence and discrimination: effective responses
  • Who owns your body: forced marriage, FGM, trafficking
  • The role of information, education, attitude and services in realising sexual rights  
  • Consensual sexual behaviours and practices: the role of law and policy
  • Diverse relationship structures: legal and social recognition
  • The politics of sexual pleasure
  • What is promiscuity and what is wrong with it?

1 The Yogyakarta Principles, 2007
2 OHCHR Born Free and Equal, 2012
3 WHO Defining Sexual Health
4 Kismödi et al. Advancing sexual health through human rights: The role of the law. Global Public Health, 2015
5 Sexual Rights: A IPPF declaration, 2008
6 Declaration of Sexual Rights, World Association for Sexual Health, 2014


Please note that RHM has moved to online-only publication. We have also introduced open-choice, allowing authors to decide whether to publish their articles open access.

Please share this with anyone who may be interested in submitting a paper.


Submissions now online at:
http://ees.elsevier.com/rhm due 31 May 2015

RHM author and submission guidelines are at:


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