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Fulfill Young People’s Sexual Rights!

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, May 1, 2017


Fulfil! A Guidance Document for the Implementation of Young People’s Sexual Rights (IPPF-WAS, 2016)

At the World Congress for Sexual Health 2015 in Singapore, Eli Coleman (Past President of the World Association for Sexual Health-WAS) arranged a dinner with Doortje Braeken, at the time Senior Advisor on Youth, Gender and Rights at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Esther Corona (one of the leading members of WAS), Eszter Kismodi (an international human rights lawyer) and me to discuss how could we apply the WAS Declaration of Sexual Rights to the needs of young people. WAS elaborated its initial Declaration of Sexual Rights back in 1999, in what constituted a global human rights milestone. Fifteen years later, in an effort led by Eli and Esther, WAS revised its Declaration and updated it according to international human rights standards. Eszter Kismodi was a central part of this revision. With a new Sexual Rights Declaration in our hands, it was time to think how we could translate it into something practical for young people. During that dinner in Singapore, Doortje Braeken mentioned that IPPF already had a document (Exclaim!) which explains sexual rights to young people… Then, what was the gap? Is it purely the responsibility of young people to exercise and fulfill their own sexual rights? No, there are people in positions of power, such as health providers, programmers and policymakers, who are the gatekeepers for the fulfillment of young people’s sexual rights. There is an urgent need for these gatekeepers to understand how to implement the sexual rights of young people in practice. After that dinner in Singapore, Doortje and I started a journey of 14 months, which resulted into the creation of Fulfil! A Guidance Document for the Implementation of Young People’s Sexual Rights, by IPPF & WAS (2016). We elaborated the first draft of the document, which was the basis of a consultation at IPPF London in December 2015 with experts and advocates from organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, etc. After the meeting, Doortje and I led further revisions and development of the document. What is great and unique about Fulfil! is that it deals with some of the most contentious sexual rights issues faced by young people (such as the ones related to the age of sexual consent), it provides specific guidance for policies and programs, and it also provides a model to balance ethical, legal and practical factors when it comes to the implementation of young people’s sexual rights in service delivery (which was adapted from a model by Dr. Chandra Mouli, from the World Health Organization).

On Friday April 21st 2017, WAS and IPPF hosted a Symposium at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, in which Fulfil! was officially launched. I had the honor of sharing the floor with Carmen Barroso (former Director of IPPF’s Western Hemisphere Regional-WHR Office), John Santelli (a world-renowned Pediatrician and Professor from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health), Angela Diaz (another world-renowned Pediatrician who runs the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center), Chris Vargas (a Global Youth Ambassador at Planned Parenthood Global), Chelsie France (a young advocate from Guyana) and Marissa Billowitz (IPPF-WHR’s Associate Director on Youth, Gender & Rights). In a world that continues to witness sexual rights violations and a difficult political climate for sexual and reproductive health and rights, it is more necessary than ever that the journey started by Fulfil! for the implementation of young people’s sexual rights continues…

Fulfil! can be downloaded in both IPPF and WAS websites: