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Montreal Declaration “Sexual Health for The Millennium” Brings New Advocacy Voices

From July 10-15, over 1,000 leading doctors, therapists, and academics on sexual health gathered in Montreal , Canada for the XVII World Congress on Sexology. The Congress is held every other year under the auspices of the World Association for Sexology (WAS). WAS has a membership base that spans the globe and includes regional affiliates for Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia . WAS has worked closely over the years with key organizations such as the World Health Organization to advance sexual health and rights.

Participants in the Congress shared information through hundreds of presentations related to sexual health that focused on aspects of both science and policy. In addition, WAS’ membership approved a name change for the organization which is now known formally as the World Association for Sexual Health, though the acronym will remain the same.

The major outcome of the Montreal Congress was the issuance of a declaration that brings WAS’ voice and membership fully into the global sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy community. In particular, the “Sexual Health for the Millennium” declaration, states:

The promotion of sexual health is central to the attainment of wellness and well-being and to the achievement of sustainable development and more specifically to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. Individuals and communities who experience well-being are better positioned to contribute to the eradication of individual and societal poverty….

Therefore, we urge all government, international agencies, private sector, academic institutions and society at large, and particularly, all member organizations of the World Association for Sexual Health to:

  1. Recognize, promote, ensure, and protect sexual rights for all
  2. Advance toward gender equity
  3. Eliminate all forms of sexual violence and abuse
  4. Provide universal access to comprehensive sexuality information and education
  5. Ensure that reproductive health programs recognize the centrality of sexual health
  6. Halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  7. Identify, address, and treat sexual concerns, dysfunctions, and disorders
  8. Achieve recognition of sexual pleasure as a component of well-being

“SIECUS is proud to have been part of drafting this historic declaration and pleased to be helping to bring WAS and its members into the advocacy arena on sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said William Smith, SIECUS’ vice president for public policy.

The Montreal Declaration has the promise of bringing a significant and untapped network of voices into larger global efforts to help promote and defend sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In particular, as the United Nations and the international community begin implementing targets based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), explicit advocacy on behalf of SRHR is a must.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), derived from the Millennium Declaration and adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 1 , articulate objectives for resolving some of the most complicated and urgent social problems of our time. 2 They are commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress and as a tool to help governments and advocates mobilize resources and implement programs that ensure sustainable and equitable development worldwide. The MDGs, while laudable in their breadth and scope, are nearly silent on key sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, with the exception of HIV/AIDS eradication. For this reason, most advocates believe that explicit advocacy is necessary to ensure that SRHR needs are met.

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