Safer sex practices

Safer sex practices are any acts or measures you take to reduce your and your partner(s)’s risk of contracting an Sexually Transmitted Infection and/or to prevent pregnancy. Safer sex usually involves one or more of the following: correct and consistent use of condoms, using lubricants, (male/female)/dental dams, sex without intercourse (kissing, caressing, using hands etc.), (mutual) masturbation, avoiding using drugs and alcohol, not sharing sex toys, regular STI testing for both you and your partner(s). 


A medical term used to refer to a certain combination of reproductive organs, chromosomes (thread like structure that contains your genes), external sexual organs (such as vulva and penis), secondary sex characteristics (breasts for example) and hormonal balances. When talking about sex people frequently refer to ‘typical’ ‘male’ and ‘female’ biological types, however, there are many different types of sex.

Sex Work

Sex work is a consensual transaction between two or more adult persons, whereby sexual acts may be purchased or traded for other services. There are different forms of sex work which involve varying degrees of (physical) contact, for example, erotic dancing, web camming, pornography, phone sex, engaging in penetrative/oral/anal sex etc. Note that not everyone who engages in these types of activities may consider themselves sex workers.  

There are many different reasons for engaging in sex work – some people engage in sex work to supplement their income or in exchange for gifts, some may do it for fun or pleasure. Importantly, sex work is a type of work. Even though sex work and trafficking are used interchangeably, trafficking is not the same as sex work. Trafficking is a form of sexual exploitation. Trafficking is a complex phenomenon and the lines can be blurry (e.g. some people may agree to go to a certain country and know that they will be engaging in a form of sex work, while others may be tricked into thinking they are going to be working as a nanny).

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) encompass all of the rights and issues surrounding a person’s sexual and reproductive life. These rights are closely linked with other internationally recognized human rights, such as the right to privacy, the right to education and information, the right to equality and freedom from violence and all forms of discrimination, the right to the highest attainable standard of health etc.

The term SRHR combines four separate but interrelated concepts: Sexual Health (SH), Reproductive Health (RH), Sexual Rights (SR), and Reproductive Rights (RR). Sexual and Reproductive Health cover the right to decide if, when and how often to have children, right to live free from disease, the right to have access to accurate, comprehensive and confidential information etc., while Sexual and Reproductive Rights cover the right to sexual pleasure, the right to sexual expression, the right to sexual privacy, the right to have access to the full range of contraceptives and safe abortion services, the right to choose your partner and much more. 

It is important to note that although the term SRHR encompasses many human rights are that are internationally/regionally/nationally recognized and protected (see, for example, the Yogyakarta principles), they are still considered extremely controversial, especially when this term is used in conjunction to young people. Sexual Rights are particularly contentious, as they also recognize and protect sexual and gender diversity, issues which are not accepted in many communities. For this reason, you will often only see a reference to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights (SRH and RR).

Sexual Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes Sexual Health (SH) as ‘a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality: not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.’ Sexual health includes issues surrounding healthy sexual development, equitable and responsible relationships and sexual fulfillment, freedom from illness, disease, violence and other harmful practices related to sexuality.  This includes access to the full range of contraceptives and health care.

Sexual Orientation

A person’s sexual orientation reflects their emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to people of the same/another/multiple gender identities and expressions. Note that sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on a person's gender identity or gender expression.

Sexual Rights

Sexual rights (SR) are the rights of all people to decide freely on all aspects of their sexuality free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. Sexual Rights are however often not recognized internationally, like reproductive rights, but embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other important international agreements. 

This includes  (i) the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services, (ii) seek, receive, and impart information related to sexuality, (iii) receive sexuality education, (iv) have respect for bodily integrity, (v) have a free choice of partner, (vi) decide to be sexually active or not, (vii) have consensual sexual relations, (viii) enter into marriage consensually, (ix) decide whether or not and when and how often to have children, (x) pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life, (xi) and the right of all people, including youth, to participate in decision making processes that affect these rights. Sexual rights apply to everyone, regardless of their age, marital status, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or their gender identity and expression.


Sexuality is a central aspect of being human. It 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, behaviors, 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.

Sexually Transmitted Infection/Disease

A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is an infection which is transferred through direct sexual contact (oral, anal, vaginal, but also potentially through objects like sex toys). Some STIs infect your sexual and reproductive organs (like chlamydia and gonorrhoea), while others may cause general body infection (like HIV and hepatitis B). Note that even though condoms protect against many STIs, they do not protect against all STI's.

Shadow Reporting

Sometimes also called ‘alternative’ or ‘parallel’ reports, shadow reports are documents created by organizations or people who are not affiliated with the government which are submitted to treaty monitoring bodies at the UN (like CEDAW or the UPR) and other institutions, as an alternative or supplement to their governments official report on the situation in their country.

Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an inter-governmental organization created to expand socio-economic cooperation, and political and security cooperation between its 16 member states. The SADC member states are : Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


A social stigma is a negative characteristic associated with a person or a group of people. These markings are not based on factual information or logical conclusions but on assumptions. Often these assumptions are triggered by the way people talk, look, or act. A stigma can lead to misidentifying peoples' actions or intentions which can, in the worst case, limit their freedom and/or wellbeing. An example of a social stigma is the belief that a person living with HIV is somehow ‘dirty’ or ‘immoral’, and that you should avoid any close physical contact with them.

Substantive Equality

Compared to formal or legal equality, which ensures the same opportunities and access to resources, substantive equality focuses on the actual outcomes and impacts of laws and policies. For example, while men and women might be equal in the eyes of the law, women might still face certain barriers that may require special temporary measures to rectify this inequality - these measures are also know as equity. In this sense, substantive equality goes beyond a purely legal perspective on equality and recognizes that actual lived realities are more complex, and requires governments to tailor legislation to respond to the realities of people’s lives. Substantive equality is a concept taken from the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), where the concept is used to draw attention to the fact that as a result of historic discrimination, women do not start on an equal footing to men.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development is often described as development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development involves balancing human development with natural resources, and the limits of the earth and environment and encompasses intergenerational responsibility.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In September 2015, during the United Nations General Assembly, Member States agreed on and committed to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development including 17 goals and 169 targets. Amongst these SDGs and targets are a number relevant to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in general and in particular to young people, namely under goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all (target 3.1, 3.3, 3.7), and under goal 5, achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls (target 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6). Although young people are not explicitly mentioned in these targets, the 2030 Agenda is meant to be universal and indicators are to be disaggregated by a number of factors, including age, which will help to address young people’s SRHR. The 2030 Agenda kicked off in January 2016 and the goals are to be met by 2030. After a very tough negotiation process, two targets (3.7 and 5.6) mentioning universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights were included.