This is the theme for World Sexual Health Day, 2020 – “Sexual Pleasure in Times of Covid-19”.
The new world situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) requires special attention due to the confinement, social distance and hygiene measures recommended for its control, as well as the health, social and economic consequences after de-escalation of the measures mentioned to return to normalize life.
In each region of the world, the infection with COVID-19 has come at a different time, with a different incidence and with different governmental measures, but in society there will be significant social effects on sexual health, in couple relationships, in family relationships, in social relations and in mental health, as well as there will be economic difficulties due to the loss of many jobs, which will be the main sources of concern.
Sexual health and rights are an important public health problem that requires specific attention in times of pandemic and, therefore, the World Association for Sexual Health wants to focus our attention on their protection and on promoting gender equality and respect for sexual diversity.
We must remember that sexual health is defined as a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality that requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relations, as well as the possibility of having pleasant and safe sexual experiences, free from all coercion, discrimination and violence (WHO, 2002).
In the same way that diseases affect women and men differently, the pandemic situation increases existing inequalities between women and girls, as well as discrimination of minority population groups by any condition (functional diversity, LGTBIQ population, immigrants, etc.).
In times of crisis, such as the quarantine situation, women and girls are at increased risk of intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and family violence as a result of increasing tensions in the home from confinement. They also face increased risks from other forms of gender violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse in these situations.
Women represent the largest workforce in the health and care sector in the world. Therefore, they are more exposed to having more health problems by being in the front line of action. Similarly, it is important to guarantee continuity of care in the event of an interruption or alteration of sexual health care services due to the diversion of resources to face the infection and the lack of health supplies due to shortages.
Providing mental and psychosocial health support for individuals, families, the community, and the staff who serve basic services is critical to maintaining health and rights. Surveillance and response systems must take into account aspects such as sex, gender, age, risk factors for health reasons, employment status and pregnancy status.
WAS collaboration and alliances with WHO, UNFPA and other United Nations agencies to support Ministries of Health and other Ministries related to pandemic control are essential to ensure correct information on precautions to avoid infection and potential risks associated with sexual activity and the risks of increased violence against women, children and the most vulnerable population groups. It is also important for WAS to advise on seeking health care and psychosocial aids.
It must be pointed out that individual protection protects others from getting sick, that life must go on and that sexuality is an inseparable and essential part of human beings.
Furthermore, the World Association for Sexual Health urges all states and nations to ensure that everyone’s human and sexual rights are recognized and respected, and that the rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services are not violated by new policies or measures to manage the pandemic. Human, sexual, and reproductive rights, equality, and a free and just society should not be sacrificed in the process.
Dr Sharmila Majumdar
MS Human Sexuality, PhD cbt
Fellowship from Ichan school of Medicine, Mount Sinai, USA
Director and Chief Sexologist
Sexual and mental health clinic , Avis Hospital
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