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Do you know what sexual health advocacy is?

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, October 22, 2012

The past Latin American Congress of Sexuality Education & Sexology developed in Medellín, Colombia, with the participation of more than 700 attendees. The Latin American Congress of Sexuality Education & Sexology is organized by the Latin American Federation of  Sex Education and Sexology Societies (FLASSES, because of its Spanish acronym), one of the Regional Federations of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). I went to the FLASSES Congress because I was programmed to participate at the Symposium organized by the Latin American Members of the WAS Youth Initiative Committee (Yasmany Díaz, Magdalena Rivera, Carlos Cotiz and myself) and I was the Chair of the third Round Table of Discussion about “Youth’s Sexual Health in the 21st Century” organized by the WAS Youth Initiative as part of an International Consultation. The Round Table focused on youth’s sexual health in Latin America.

Apart from these two events, I was really excited to participate in my first FLASSES Congress because sexology in Latin America is quite developed, and it has a very special flavor (Latino spice, of course!). The Scientific Program of the Latin American Congress contained workshops, activities dealing with art, and a very wide participation from people representing the majority of Latin countries. I had the great pleasure of taking one workshop with a sexologist who is very dear for me. I consider her a mentor, as she supported the proposal of the WAS Youth Initiative that I made in 2010 and with her help, we manage to have the Initiative approved: Esther Corona Vargas, recognized pioneer of sex education in Mexico and Latin America.

Although I work with Esther within WAS, I’d never have the chance to be in a classroom learning from her. The workshop she gave was about advocacy and sexual health promotion in Latin America. Rafael Mazín, Advisor to the Pan American Health Organization and one of Esther’s oldest colleagues, gave an introductory talk referring to the Millennium Development Goals and to the Millennium Declaration of the World Association for Sexual Health (a Declaration and Technical Document which relates the MDGs with sexual health). After Rafael’s talk, Esther explained the concept of advocacy and we went on to discuss strategies for sexual health advocacy in Latin America. What I considered fabulous about the workshop was that the clinical and educational sexologists who participated in it, began to question themselves about the importance that advocacy has in sexual health and sexual rights promotion. When some sexologists think about sexual health they always think of it in the context of a classroom (where sex education is provided) or in the context of a clinic (where sex therapy is provided), and they tend to forget that what is going outside, in the “real world” (involving pop culture, politicians, media, etc) has the greatest impact when it comes to deep social changes. Science has to constitute the basis for sexual health advocacy, but the gap between both of them continues to be extremely wide. This is why Esther’s workshop and other actions, such as World Sexual Health Day, are so necessary. If you are a clinical or educational sexologist, don’t forget that apart from all the work you do inside a classroom or a clinic, you have to be politically sensitive and to push for real social changes with decision makers whenever you can: Advocacy is the word we all have to start using more if our goal is the promotion of sexual health, sexual education or sexual rights. 

Esther Corona Vargas & Antón Castellanos Usigli