Older people do not have sexual rights

Oh yes they do! And there is an urgent need to protect these sexual rights, as evidence continues to grow that they are not always being met.

The sexual rights of older people can be violated in different ways. Here are some examples:
– when people do not believe that an older woman has been sexually assaulted as ‘rape myths’ dictate that only young women can be the victims
– when medical doctors fail to inform their older patients that the drug they have prescribed for them has significant sexual side-effects
– when health promotion services do not include older people in their safer-sex campaigns
– and when aged-care services are not LGBTI inclusive

Not all older people will experience prejudice or discrimination connected with their sexuality, but the implications for those who do can be severe. They can have a negative impact on quality of life, and psychological wellbeing. As well as pose a risk to personal safety.

Many people (including health and social professionals and service providers) are not aware that sexual rights can and should be applied to older people, thus unintentional violations occur. We know from the work of human rights activists that when rights aren’t protected, people are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Key issues identified from research in the area of older people and sexuality include: stigma, silencing, invisibility, prejudice, discrimination, and lack of awareness and understanding. All of which can prevent sexual rights from being met.

Indeed, older age intersects with other social categories to reproduce and exacerbate inequalities. For example, older people today may feel marginalised because of their sexual orientation, they may fear reproach from health and social professionals due to historical experiences of homophobia, they therefore may feel silenced.

This is why we have developed a framework for the sexual rights of older people. Useful for anyone whose work brings them into contact with older people, and those interested in sexual issues, it provides suggestions on how to apply the framework in professional practice, as well as ways to raise awareness and engage communities in constructing strategies for reform. Read more about it here.

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