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  • The right for a physical integrity is a human right and is a part of the right to privacy, which in turn belongs to the protection area of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which sets out the right to respect for his private and family life.
  • A person’s sexual rights include the obligation to respect the sexual rights of other people and partners – the rights of one person cannot be realized through coercion and violence against another person.
  • The base of physical integrity starts from childhood and is related to the sexuality education.


Human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents including the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to the highest attainable standard of health in relation to sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services; the capacity to seek, receive and impart information in relation to sexuality; access to sexuality education; respect for bodily integrity; free choice of partner; the right to decide to be sexually active or not; the right to consensual sexual relations, the right to consensual marriage; the right to decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and the right to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life (European Institute for Gender Equality, n.d.)

There are still going discussions about the definition of sexual rights (Miller, Kismödi, Cottingham, & Gruskin, 2015) and the respect of bodily integrity is one of the person’s rights.

But still, if there is no concrete definition for sexual rights, we know, that over the past three decades there has been a rapid expansion of the application of human rights to sexuality and sexual health matters, particularly relating to protection from discrimination and violence, and protection of freedom of expression and association, privacy, and other rights, for women, men, transgender and intersex people, adolescents, and other population groups. This has resulted in the Sexual health, human rights and the law production of an important body of human rights standards promoting sexual health and human rights (WHO, 2015).

4.2.2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOPIC Sexual rights and children’s rights

There is a growing consensus that sexual health cannot be achieved and maintained without respect for, and protection of, certain human rights. The working definition of sexual rights given below is a contribution to the continuing dialogue on human rights related to sexual health.

The fulfilment of sexual health is tied to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in international and regional human rights documents and other consensus documents and in national laws (WHO, n.d.).

Rights critical to the realization of sexual health include (WHO, n.d.):

  • The rights to equality and non-discrimination.
  • The right to be free from torture or to cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The rights to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security.
  • The right to marry and to find a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage.
  • The right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children.
  • The rights to information, as well as education.
  • The rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.

The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitutes sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination (WHO, n.d.).

However, some caution is necessary here. Some of the mentioned rights come from adults. This means that not all these rights automatically apply to children and teenagers. Among other things, for example, that the right to consensual marriage does not yet apply to children or teenagers. The child’s right to information is also recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It expressly states the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of any kind (Article 13). Article 19 refers to the obligation of member states to ensure education for children to protect them from, among other things, sexual abuse. Sexuality education and children’s development

The physical development is part of the holistic development of the child. The sexuality education starts from knowing your body and feeling the closeness of the parents – the secure and supportive relationship. Children’s sexuality education is learning about their own body parts, accepting their own and other bodies as valuable, recognizing different genders, learning to express their feelings, and perceiving and expressing their privacy. Knowledge and skills in this area help the child to set boundaries, express their wishes, experience the joy of safe physical intimacy, create friendships, protect their personal space, recognize (sexual) violence, seek help if necessary. Age-appropriate sexual education allows children understand their sexuality, treat themselves and others with tolerance, positiveness, and respect, create close relationships based on equality and consent, and take responsibility for their own and their partner’s (sexual) health. Adults play a very important role because their attitudes, behaviour and words shape children’s sexuality (Part & Kull, 2018; Rutgers, 2015).

Holistic sexuality education has the principle, that it is based on a (sexual and reproductive) human rights approach and is firmly based on gender equality, self-determination, and the acceptance of diversity. (Part & Kull, 2018; Rutgers, 2015).

The subconscious or natural way of teaching and learning about sexuality can be complemented by an active way of teaching and informing. The benefit of this approach is the normalization of the topic of sexuality. The child’s questions are answered in an age-appropriate way, and they are shown that issues related to sexuality are positive and enjoyable. Thus, they can also develop a positive attitude towards their body and learn appropriate communication skills (for example, naming the body parts correctly). At the same time, the child is taught that individual boundaries and social rules exist and need to be respected (you cannot touch anyone you want to). Even more importantly, the child learns to realize and express their own boundaries (you can say no; you can ask for help). In this sense, sexuality education is also social education and contributes to the prevention of sexual abuse.


  • One person is touching and hugging other person without consent, and they do not feel comfortable.
  • If one person says “no” for touching or sexual acts, the other person is not accepting it.


Sensoa Flag System is an evidence-based tool for assessing acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviour of children and young people aged 0-18 years. The Flag System is used in supporting healthy sexual development and preventing sexual coercion. It gives insights into sexuality, desires, boundaries, criteria, and gradations of sexual behaviour, making them ‘open’ subjects, and thus easier to talk about.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (Väestoliitto): through comprehensive sexuality education, a person acquires knowledge and skills through which they can reflect on their own attitudes in matters related to sexuality. Based on this information, a person makes the best possible choices for themselves about the realization of their own sexuality.


European Institute for Gender Equality. (n.d.). Sexual Rights. Retrieved from https://eige.europa.eu/thesaurus/terms/1381

Miller, A. M., Kismödi, E., Cottingham, J., & Gruskin, S. (2015). Sexual rights as human rights: A guide to authoritative sources and principles for applying human rights to sexuality and sexual health. Reproductive Health Matters, 23(46), 16–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.007

Part, K., & Kull, M. (Eds.). (2018). Koolieelses eas laste seksuaalkasvatus: Keha, tunded ja turvalisus Metoodiline materjal lapse seksuaalse arengu toetamiseks. Tallinn: Tervise Arengu Instituut. Retrieved from https://intra.tai.ee/images/prints/documents/154652678970_seksuaalkasvatus.pdf

Rutgers (2015). Spring Fever: Relationships and Sexual Health Education (2015). Rutgers ja Public Health Warwickshire.

WHO. (n.d.). Sexual health. Retrieved 29 September 2022, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/sexual-health

WHO. (2015). Sexual health, human rights and the law. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/175556

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