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Centering Sexual Freedom on Human Rights Day

December 10, 2017

Happy Human Rights Day! Today marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , a document that identified the inalienable rights to which everyone is inherently entitled as a human being — regardless of race, religion, sex, language, political opinion, national or social origin, property, or birth status.

Every day Woodhull works to secure and protect human rights. The UDHR was drafted through collaborative efforts from nations across the world, taking into consideration the circumstances of multiple cultures, lived realities, and worldviews. The final result is based on the rights that each and every person is entitled to in order to live an equal and secure life. Using these shared human rights as our framework, Woodhull centers sexual freedom as a basic human right that cannot be separated from each of the articles outlined.

If we have a right to freedom from violence, then that includes freedom from sexual violence. If we have a right to form families and enter into marriages, then we have a right to choose partners regardless of gender or sexuality. If every human being has a right to work and be paid to support themselves, and a right to autonomy over their body, then the rights of sex workers must be protected as well. If we have a right to not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, then we have a right to speak out against the treatment of gay prisoners in Egypt subjected to forced anal probing. In the same vein, if we have the right to not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, then we must fight against the arrest of LGBTQ+ people internationally and against the racist practices of law enforcement in the US.

Among the biggest barriers to the full protection of these rights are ongoing attacks on bodily autonomy. Sexual and domestic violence perpetrated systematically, culturally, and individually. Sexual and domestic violence are personal. When institutions fail to prevent these acts of violence or hold perpetrators accountable, all the victim’s other rights are threatened. This allows a culture of rape to persist, where perpetrators ignore the agency and voice of victims. Individual attacks are part of a larger systemic problem.

We strive every day to maintain the human right to sexual freedom, something that was spelled out 69 years ago but still needs our vigilant protection today. In addition, Woodhull defends the human right to be free from sexual and domestic violence. We will not tolerate discriminatory attacks on these rights or bodily autonomy.

This work can not be done alone. Each of us has a stake in the future of human rights. An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us. Each time one of us stands up against injustice, discrimination, and violence we are helping protect human rights for us all. Together, we are stronger and louder. Help us continue this important work.


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