Sexual Rights in Southern Africa
At the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing, the international community agreed that human rights include the right of women to control over their sexuality.1 Although the terminology is contested, this principle is frequently encapsulated as “sexual rights.” Using the southern African region as a case study, this chapter explores varying interpretations of sexual rights and the extent to which the concept has significance beyond the rhetorical agreement reached in Beijing. The chapter is written from the perspective that sexual rights ought to encompass the conditions that allow for gender equality to be present in sexual relationships and for sexuality to become a positive and pleasurable component of human experience. Sexual rights matter because they are central to the achievement of social justice. The achievement of sexual rights requires gender equality in cultural and social systems, as well as in economic systems. Thus, they frequently serve as a pivot around which civil, political, social, and economic rights interact.