The Language of Sexuality

Ishita Sharma is a former peer educator at The YP Foundation. This article was written on 5 December 2010.

The language of sexuality that we use at The YP Foundation has evolved over the last few years as our understanding of what the multiple facets of and interconnections within sexuality, gender, rights and health are. It’s been a challenging process and our knowledge of the same has been challenged, redefined, questioned and re-invented. The most important learning principle is that there is little that is static. Our key principles remain the same, but how those are defined and applied is a continuous learning process.

Over the last 2 years our work has been directed towards advocating for young people’s sexual right as a human right. Certain key principles that have been recognized are:

- We believe that sexuality and expression of sexuality is intrinsic to each individual

- Recognize that sexuality is a normal and important part of all people’s lives and while different people have different understandings and ways of expressing their sexuality, all people should experience their bodies and sexuality in a positive and fulfilling manner.

- Every person has the right to access information services relating to sexual rights and health irrespective of any other considerations.

-Recognize that gender is a fluid concept and gender roles are based on narrow societal constructs. Every individual has the right to choose and ascribe to different gender and/or sexual identities.

- Respect, and not violate, other people’s bodies and personal spaces, laying emphasis on the importance of consent in relationships.

- Recognize that different people have different body types and address existing stereotypes relating to body types, sexuality & notions of what is attractive.

- Respect their bodies and take proper care of their bodies with respect to nutrition, exercise, sexual health and get regular health checkups.

- Recognize the importance of accessing correct information from reliable sources, leading to informed decision making.

Along with any sort of work comes a tag, a tendency to define and interpret where certain actions, event or piece of work fits in. For The YP, this process was not a conscious process, but we found a space, where we feel our work very naturally fit.

Language here again became important. What are our politics and our stands?  What language and with what words do we speak?  Who do we speak on behalf of? Do we identify ourselves with any movement?  Specifically in relation to our work with sexuality, how do we ensure that our work and also language is culturally appropriate-or is that even necessary?

Another question was of our engagement with social issues, with registration came the tag of NGO- a ‘not for profit registered foundation’. Words such as social change, social justice, Advocates, Activists entered our vocabulary and concept notes.

The term youth activism has been used to describe our work in multiple arenas, both internally and externally. But what does that mean, specifically in the context of work around sexuality and gender, how is activism interpreted when placed in the milieu of urban issues and people? These are some of the questions we hope to explore.