Definitions

Female genital mutilation (FGM): Comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18 percent of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and this trend is increasing.16

Gender: Refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context/time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context.17 The distinct roles and behaviours given to women and men may also give rise to gender inequalities, i.e. differences between men and women that systematically favour one group. In turn, such inequalities can lead to inequities between men and women in both health status and access to SRH care, for example.18

Gender equality: Indicates that women and men and girls and boys have equal conditions for realising their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural and political development.19 It involves working with women and girls and men and boys to bring about changes in attitudes, behaviours, roles and responsibilities at home, in the workplace, and in the community. Genuine equality means more than parity in numbers or laws on the books; it means expanding freedoms and improving overall quality of life so that equality is achieved without sacrificing gains for males or females.20

Sexual health: Includes healthy sexual development, equitable and responsible relationships and sexual fulfilment, freedom from illness, disease, disability, violence and other harmful practices related to sexuality.21

Sexuality: According to the WHO, “…a central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”22

Sexual rights: The rights of all people to decide freely and responsibly on all aspects of their sexuality, including protecting and promoting their sexual health; being free from discrimination, coercion or violence in their sexual lives and in all sexual decisions; and, expecting and demanding equality, mutual respect and shared responsibility in sexual relationships. Sexual rights include the right of all people to say ‘no’ to sex if they do not want it – this is called consent.23

Reproductive health: The complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters related to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes, including a satisfying and safe sex life, capacity to have children and, freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.24

Reproductive rights: The rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, to have the information, education and means to do so, attain the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health and, make decisions about reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Reproductive healthcare: The constellation of methods, techniques and services that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health problems. This includes, at a minimum, family planning services, counselling and information, antenatal, postnatal and delivery care, health care for infants, treatment for reproductive tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases, safe abortion services where legal and management of abortion-related complications, prevention and appropriate treatment for infertility, information, education and counselling on human sexuality, reproductive health and responsible parenting and discouragement of harmful practices. If additional services, such as the treatment of breast and reproductive system cancers and HIV/AIDS are not offered, a system should be in place to provide referrals for such care.25

Definitions | Women Win Guides

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