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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 12: Sexual Health
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Open this folder and view contentsSex and Gender Roles
Open this folder and view contentsHow Gender Roles Affect Sexual Health
Open this folder and view contentsGaining More Control over Your Sexual Health
Open this folder and view contentsWorking for Change



We have been ignorant for so long, and full of fear about our bodies.

- Oaxaca, Mexico

Sex is a natural part of life. For many women, it is a way to feel pleasure, express love or sexual desire for their partners, or to become pregnant with the children they hope for.

But sex can also lead to serious problems, such as pregnancies that are unwanted or that threaten a woman’s health, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or physical and emotional harm from forced sex.

To be free from these problems, a woman must have control over her sexual life. This control should include:

· choosing her sexual partner.
· negotiating when and how to have sex.
· choosing if and when she becomes pregnant.
· preventing STDs, including HIV/AIDS.
· being free from sexual violence, including forced sex.

When a woman has this control, we say she has good sexual heath. But in many communities, harmful beliefs about what it means to be a woman make it hard for women to have good sexual health. This chapter gives information and suggestions about how women can overcome these beliefs and gain control over their sexual lives.