An orgasm is just as important as other health issues, says sexologist ahead of sexual health conference

Leading sexologist says when it comes to sexual health, getting full medical attention is not always guaranteed

08 September 2021 - 07:00
Sex health experts argue that even though SA has a liberal constitution, the right to sexual pleasure is not upheld because the country lacks resources. Stock photo.
Sex health experts argue that even though SA has a liberal constitution, the right to sexual pleasure is not upheld because the country lacks resources. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/estradaanton

When you have a medical or psychological challenge that affects your general wellbeing, including unwanted pregnancy, you can be sure you will get full medical attention in most healthcare centres in SA.

But a leading sexologist said when it comes to sexual health, such attention is not always guaranteed.

Despite sexual health playing a major role in a person’s general wellbeing, Dr Elna Rudolph, clinical head of My Sexual Health and president of the 25th Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health, which starts on Thursday, said sexual medicine remained one of the most neglected disciplines, particularly in Africa and among those dependent on public healthcare.

Not only were South Africans too shy to talk about their sexual needs, but sexual health is not an area which healthcare providers hold in high regard.

“Although we have a very liberal constitution and almost all the sexual rights are available to everybody in SA, the right to sexual pleasure is not upheld in a resource-poor country like ours. That is understandable given the lack of resources. For instance, you can’t let someone die of Covid-19 while the other person is trying to learn how to have an orgasm, so it is a distributive justice kind of issue,” she told TimesLIVE ahead of the congress.

Rudolph said although people in the private healthcare sector had access to sexual health services, this service was almost non-existent in the public sector.

“In SA you can have an abortion for free, for instance, but can you go to a government hospital and say I’ve never had an orgasm? Ideally, just like in other high-income countries or in our private healthcare, there is supposed to a trained person there who will be able to treat you and give you the necessary medical advice and psychological support, and the sex counselling you will need to experience orgasm.

“Sexual pleasure is a right enshrined in our constitution and it is good for everyone’s wellbeing, but it’s not really happening on the ground and nobody seems to want to talk about it,” said Rudolph.

She said she hopes the congress, which is being hosted by the Southern African Sexual Health Association (Sasha) from September 9 to 12, would open a platform to to discuss the most pressing topics on sexual rights, health and pleasure.

Funded by international human rights organisation Hivos, the virtual conference will bring together influential speakers, policy makers, healthcare providers, educators and activists, including representatives from the World Health Organisation, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and UNAids.

If sexual pleasure is a right, then the country in which that happens should, for instance, allocate resources towards helping women in those positions to be able to fully access pleasure.
Dr Elna Rudolph

It aims to transform the global face of sexual health and rights and to promote sexual health for all. 

“We are delighted to welcome leading international sexual health experts to Africa to share their wisdom on our powerful collaborative virtual platform. Such a gathering of minds will advance the evolution of sexual health delivery and access for the benefit of many in Africa and the rest of the world.”

Some of the highlights of the congress would be the release of the sexual pleasure declaration  that will discuss, among other things, involuntary genetic alteration (female circumcision) and restoration treatments, and how the LGBTQI+ community can safely exist.

The congress will include a sexual justice indaba that aims to produce a fully informed declaration on sexual justice which will inform policy around the globe.

“As the World Association for Sexual Health, we are very concerned with the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. In some African countries, for instance, we know this group doesn’t enjoy rights to sexual health like the general population. It is important for these international documents that have gravitas to potentially influence legislation in countries like that to exist,” said Rudolph.

“These documents carry a lot of weight. But the significance of this declaration to sexual pleasure is that we are saying people have a right to sexual pleasure. As an organisation we are very concerned about justice in general. If we don’t put it on the table and it doesn’t hit the agenda somewhere it will never be attainable.

“If you say women who had involuntary genetic alteration have a right to healthcare, for instance, their right to healthcare should not only be limited to treating complications associated with this procedure.

“If sexual pleasure is a right, then the country in which that happens should, for instance, allocate resources towards helping women in those positions to be able to fully access pleasure, such as corrective procedures, treatment, counselling or sex counselling.” 

Chair of the World Association for Sexual Health scientific committee, Alain Giami, said: “We offer an extensive scientific programme that provides delegates with an overview of the latest scientific, medical, educational, public health advances and ethical reflections in the field of sexual health and rights.

“The programme includes 30 plenary lectures, 44 symposia and roundtables, more than 150 oral presentations and 160 posters.”

TimesLIVE


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