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CASA stands for sexual health rights

By Beth Lewis

On Wednesday, September 4, people around the globe came together to celebrate an important and often-overlooked human rights holiday: World Sexual Health Day.

Since the holiday’s inception in 2010, over 35 countries have participated in the day aimed at promoting, among other things, the respect, protection and fulfillment of sexual health. Each year, the day has a slogan and this year, it is: “To achieve sexual health, picture yourself owning your sexual rights!”

The event, organized by the World Association for Sexual Health, emphasizes that sexual health is not only being free from illness, but it is also ensuring that each person is aware of his or her rights and is free from coercion or violence surrounding sexual experiences. In order to have sustainable sexual health, the organization proclaims, it is essential that every person’s rights be respected.

Closer to home, one organization, the Center for the Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende (CASA), is working daily to ensure that this vision becomes a reality here in Mexico. The organization’s peer-counseling program, established in 1981, works to promote family planning, sexual education, and prevention of and testing for HIV and AIDS in San Miguel and surrounding communities. Peer counselors use diverse means of communication, including theater, radio and group discussions, to disseminate their messages of respect and protection for each person’s sexual rights.

In cases where sexual and personal wellbeing are not respected, CASA’s Prevention of Domestic Violence program offers 24-hour help via phone, psychological consultations, and temporary refuge to people trapped in unsafe home environments. The program also works to prevent domestic violence through education to children, women and entire communities.

All of this work comes from a deep-held belief that promoting sexual health, which includes educating people on family planning, their sexual rights and what to do in situations where they are not being respected, builds stronger, safer and better communities.

When asked why sexual health was important to her, theater program coordinator Camerina Martinez Espinoza explained that a person’s sexuality is at the core of his or her being: each person comes from a sexual act, and sexuality is an enduring part of each person’s life.

“There is freedom in knowing your sexual rights,” she tells us.

Peer-counselor Isai Uriel, who has worked with CASA for eight months, explains why, for him, owning your sexual rights is so important: “If I know my own sexual rights, I am going to have a little more respect for the rights of others, because we are all the same.”

Though there is only one day a year officially devoted to the promotion of sexual health, the work of the individuals of CASA, and those involved in similar work, bring us closer to a world that is free of sexual violence and is full of respect for the sexual rights of all.

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