Conference: Sexual Health And Culture In Africa (held in Cairo)
The purpose of the 5th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is to catalyze dialogue on the interrelationship between, culture, sexuality and attainment of sexual health for all in Africa.
Culture in the broadest sense is learned behavior of a people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people. Thus culture of the people is exhibited in all spheres of living including governance and social development including sexuality. Whereas the definition of culture is varied, there are few commonalities that are embodied in most definitions. These include the following:
Culture comprises of language, attitude, customs, beliefs, arts, institutions, ways of organizing, symbols, objects, rituals, ways of living etc.
It is non-genetically transmitted across generations by communication and imitation
Cultural practices change over time thus culture is not static
In Africa, there is an alliance between gerontocracy and patriarchy leading to the social exclusion of the young and women in the production and reproduction of culture. Thus culture is value-laden and it’s about power, intense contestation, (Christiansen Utas and Vigh, 2006) as well as hegemony, ideology and struggle for supremacy.
Societies are stratified according to age, power, property and status (Tumin 1985). This has very serious implications for the transmission of knowledge and practice of sexuality at societal and individual level. In Africa, culture has been identified as the culprit in the practice of female genital cuttings, forced early marriage, widowhood rites, wife inheritance, low status of women and the transmission of HIV especially amongst girls and women. Also, the culture of silence around sexuality has further hampered public discourse on the issues thus most discourses are from the epidemiological lens. However, there is a need to expand the discourse to include gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure and intimacy. The discourse must seek to inform and ensure that the sexual rights of all persons are respected, protected and fulfilled.
These rights include:
The right to sexual freedom.
The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body.
The right to sexual privacy.
The right to sexual equity.
The right to sexual pleasure.
The right to emotional sexual expression.
The right to sexually associate freely.
The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices.
The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry.
The right to comprehensive sexuality education.
The right to sexual health care.
The Fifth African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
The Fifth African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is convened by the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights and organized by Egyptian Society for Sexual Health and Medicine. The conference was originally scheduled for February 9 - 12, 2012, however, the ongoing socio-political situation in North Africa necessitated a postponement (see press release announcing the postponement). The conference will now hold from September 19 - 22, 2012.
The conference will provide an opportunity to explore the roles of culture in the poor status of sexual health in Africa. It will also explore how to utilize positive attributes of culture in the promotion and maintenance of sexual health and rights through community reinforcing mechanisms. The goal of the conference is to advance knowledge, policy and practice in favour of safe, responsible, respectable and pleasurable sexuality in Africa.
The conference has the following objectives:
To examine the contributions of culture to the present sexual health status of girls, boys, women and men
To highlight how existing human rights laws have already been used to challenge and reject interpretations of culture that seek to preserve harmful traditional practices, e.g. through litigation and advocacy.
To share knowledge in research and policy as well as best practices for programming on sexuality and sexual health
The conference presentations, papers, posters and exhibitions will explore the theme “Sexual Health and Culture in Africa” through the following sub-themes:
Culture, Sexual Rights and Law (harmful traditional practices, positive cultural practices supporting sexual health, sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual intimacy, sexual violence, transactional sex, sexual slavery, human trafficking, sexuality and conflicts)
Culture, Reproductive Health and Rights (marriage, reproduction, infertility, assisted reproductive technology, maternal morbidity and mortality, reproductive tract cancers)
Sexual Dysfunctions, Sexual Medicine, Sexual Surgery and Culture (impotence and erectile dysfunctions, post FGM and VVF repairs)
Adolescent and Youth Sexuality (sexuality education, virginity, sexual initiation, early and forced marriages, unsafe abortions, family planning)
Gender, Media, Arts, Sexuality and Culture (sexual safety, sexual pleasure, aphrodisiacs, masturbation, sex toys, masculinity, patriarchy, media accountability)
Sexuality, HIV/AIDS and Culture (myths about HIV/AIDS, stigma, discrimination, integrating sexuality into HIV/AIDS programmes, sexuality of PLWHIV)
The expected outcomes of the conference are:
Conference technical papers and reports providing critical analysis on culture and sexuality, sexual health and rights
Dissemination of relevant international declarations, charters, treaties and covenants
Enhanced skills on advocacy and programming on sexuality, sexual health and rights
The conference is expected to be attended by policy makers, social scientists, health care experts, educationists, media, development activists, sexual health and rights advocates as well as practitioners including young persons.