International frameworks

In its objectives, the Flag System ties in with the promotion of sexual health, sexual rights and combating sexual abuse and the exploitation of children and young people.

Important international conventions and definitions

Sexual health (WHO 2006)

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it’s not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all people must be respected and protected.

Sexual rights (WHO 2006, updated in 2010)

The fulfilment of sexual health is tied to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in international and regional human rights documents, in other consensus documents and in national laws. Rights critical to the realisation of sexual health include:

  • The rights to equality and non-discrimination.
  • The right to be free from torture or from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The rights to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security.
  • The right to marry and to start a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage.
  • The right to decide the number and spacing of one's children.
  • The right to information, as well as education.
  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.

Recently, IPPF, the leading international non-governmental organisation in the field of sexual and reproductive health, has adopted a Declaration on Sexual Rights.

This declaration, which is largely based on internationally accepted human rights, has a similar structure to the widely accepted earlier IPPF Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights. This declaration also includes the right to education and information. The right of the child to information has also been acknowledged by the United Nations.

Convention on the Rights of the Child which was conceived in 1989 and has since been ratified by the vast majority of States. This clearly states the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds (Article 13); Article 19 refers to States’ obligation to provide children with educational measures to protect them, inter alia, from sexual abuse.

Sexuality education (WHO, 2010) means learning about the cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality. Sexual education starts early in childhood and progresses through adolescence and adulthood. For children and young people, it aims at supporting and protecting sexual development. It gradually equips and empowers children and young people with information, skills and positive values to understand and enjoy their sexuality, have safe and fulfilling relationships and take responsibility for their own and other people’s sexual health and well-being. It enables them to make choices which enhance the quality of their lives and contribute to a compassionate and just society. All children and young people have the right to have access to age-appropriate sexual education.

The treaty of Lanzarote (2007)

The objectives of this Treaty are:

a. To prevent and combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

b. To protect the rights of children who are the victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

c. To promote national and international collaboration in combating the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

In particular, the Flag System ties in with article 5 and 6 of the Treaty:

Article 5 - Recruitment, training and awareness-raising of persons working in contact with children

1. Each Party shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to encourage awareness of the protection and rights of children among persons who have regular contacts with children in the education, health, social protection, judicial and law-enforcement sectors and in areas relating to sport, culture and leisure activities.

2. Each Party shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the persons referred to in paragraph 1 have an adequate knowledge of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, of the means to identify them and of the possibility mentioned in Article 12, paragraph 1.

3. Each Party shall take the necessary legislative or other measures, in conformity with its internal law, to ensure that the conditions to accede to those professions whose exercise implies regular contacts with children ensure that the candidates to these professions have not been convicted of acts of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse of children.

Article 6 – Education for children

Each Party shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that children, during primary and secondary education, receive information on the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, as well as on the means to protect themselves, adapted to their evolving capacity. This information, provided in collaboration with parents, where appropriate, shall be given within a more general context of information on sexuality and shall pay special attention to situations of risk, especially those involving the use of new information and communication technologies.