Leaving no one behind in the global sexual health agenda 

November 16, 2021   |   Blog, News

“Sexual rights and pleasure are missing from the Sustainable Development Goals – and that’s problematic.”

This was the theme interwoven throughout  Dr. Carmen Logie’s talk, Sexual Health and Sustainable Development Goals: Leaving No One Behind, delivered at the UBC’s School of Population and Public Health Global Health Lunch and Learn last month, co-hosted with the Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity. A UBC Peter Wall Visiting Research Scholar hosted at CGSHE, Dr. Logie completed a month-long residency at CGSHE in October.

“Sexual rights and pleasure are the missing from the SDGs that purport to leave no behind,” she explained, and are foundational to achieving universal health care and sexual and reproductive health (SDG target 3.7) for all globally. For communities erased from SDG discussions on social inequities –  LGBTQ persons and sex workers – sexual rights are critical to realizing access to universal health.

“Sex workers and LGBTQ folks must be at the forefront of setting the global sexual health agenda. If we ignore these communities, we’re ignoring the most marginalized,” Dr. Logie continued. That’s why it’s problematic that many of the most marginalized were left out of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals are an “urgent call to action” by member countries to end poverty through an intersectional approach that includes improving health and education, reducing inequality, and stimulating economic growth.

In 2015, the United Nations introduced the SDGs as part go the 2030 Agenda with a commitment to leave no one behind. However despite the explicit focus on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, sexual rights are barely mentioned. In order to truly leave no one behind and realize sexual health for all, said Dr. Logie, the SDGs need to begin on a foundation of sexual rights. “The Sustainable Development Goals don’t include sexual orientation, and they literally ‘othered’ sex workers and LGBTQ folks by lumping them together in the “Other” category,” Dr. Logie continued. The reason for this? “The erasure of sex workers and LGBTQ people is political and has roots in patriarchy and power.”

Drawing on examples from her new publication in Global Public Health Health, Dr. Logie explained why it is imperative that sex workers and LGBTQ people be explicitly included in the SDGs. “What is named, matters. What is measured, matters. The Sustainable Development Goals were intended to change the world by leaving no one behind. But the people at the back, the most stigmatized, are missing.”

There is a critical need to move beyond risk framing to sexual pleasure, to meet the 2030 SDGs and sexual health for all. “Sexual pleasure is what motivates most sexual activity, so it makes sense to focus on that. And it fits within the Sustainable Development Goals of sexual health, which is integrally linked with justice, wellbeing, and HIV prevention and care.” In addition to a reorientation towards pleasure, Dr. Logie called for a focus on sexual justice. “We need to be thinking about flourishing, about striving to live in keeping with one’s defining values, commitments and visions for the future,” she said. “We need to move beyond vulnerability towards complexity, and work towards integrating intersectionality into the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch Dr. Carmen Logie’s talk here.

Listen to Dr. Logie’s podcast, Everybody Hates Me: Let’s Talk About Stigma here.