The Language of Sexuality – Part One
Apr 2010 13

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 that this series of article hopes to explore.

Ishita Sharma
Project 19 – Know Your Body, Know Your Rights


  1. Milinda says:

    Beautifully written!!! Waiting for next post.

  2. Prahlad Patel says:

    The last paragraph is most important,waiting for the next post…All d best!!

  3. Pramada says:

    Liked the piece Ishita. Waiting for more. Just wanted to quickly add something.

    While stating that the some of the key principles include:
    espect 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.

    It is also important to realize that a vast majority of young people cannot respect their bodies or access correct information simply because there is no access to health services, nutrition, education, the doctor won’t see them without a parent being around especially when talking about sexual health etc. Therefore it is critical that these services are also demanded as a right, otherwise making informed choices or accessing health services as young adults may remain just a good theoretical concept and an aspiration.

  4. Ishita says:

    @mili and Prahalad- Thank you 🙂

    @ pramada- Absolutely,I think we sometimes tend to not focus enough on the gap between talking about services and information and being able to see and access them as rights. And that you can’t have one without the other. Thank you!

  5. Anjana says:

    Very good writing Ishita; Keep up the good work!!!!!!!

  6. rishab bhoot says:

    brilliant piece of writing…waiting for the next post

  7. kabir mustafi says:

    Well written indeed.

    This issue/ matter/ topic/ whatever, is of such huge ramifications, that any effort unclipped to hooks ‘above’ and hooks ‘below’ will mean redoubled efforts.
    Sexuality in itself is not complicated. But putting it altogether is very hard. There’re parental responsibilities. And family responsibilities. And peer sharing and painful privacy and unmentionable shame – usually for nothing at all.
    And then there’s the darkness – incest, abuse, molestation, torture and easy death.
    Need to proceed with care. And yet, drive it hard enough to make it (the totality of sexuality)accessible in ways to suit its vagaries.
    ‘How’ is a good thing to think about. And discuss and come to conclusions and put to action.

    I think the YP team has the wherewithal to make a serious difference. And the commitment to go the long haul.

    Good wishes.

  8. rachel arinii says:

    Ishita sharma! Holly cow! The article is very refreshing! Do u have sometimes to talk project details? Would love to hear some..

  9. ishita says:

    Dear Sir

    Thank you for reading, your comments and belief.

    One of my personal realizations in the beginning of working with sexuality, was the fact that while sexuality is individual & personal, its manifestations are so intensely public. And question the fabric of our institutions and morality.
    The contradiction(or is it one really?) remains and most probably will always do so.

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