Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a prerequisite for sustainable development. Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable development is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in 2015. Agenda 2030 includes 17 sustainable development goals that are integrated which means that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. Sexual rights are linked to many of the SDGs, most directly to goal 3 on health, goal 4 on education and goal 5 on gender equality. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights are specifically mentioned in SDGs 3.7 and 5.6.
The realisation of sexual rights increases equality and reduces poverty. Good sexual health and the realisation of sexual rights are a cornerstone of education and social participation, especially for women and girls. Ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education, health services and contraceptives empowers people to influence the course of their lives – health, education, social participation and reconciling work and family life.
Restricting sexual rights creates inequalities of unacceptable proportions. If people do not have the right to decide on their own identity or their intimate relationships, other human rights cannot be fully realised. Sustainable development cannot be achieved if sexual rights are not realised.
This chapter explores few key sustainable development themes that are connected to the realisation of sexual rights. The last part focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undermined the progress made on sustainable development and impacted sexual rights in many ways.