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Ethical Dilemmas in Promoting Sexual Rights in Practice

Ethical Dilemmas in Promoting Sexual Rights in Practice

Sexpo Foundation’s work in promoting sexual rights in Finland has focused on four key groups, whose sexual rights are at risk:

  1. people, who need help from others to manage (e.g. disabled or elderly people),
  2. people, who experience cultural limitations to their rights (e.g. some religious communities or immigrant groups),
  3. sexual, gender and relationship minorities, and
  4. youth.

In this presentation, the focus is on people, whose agency is hampered because of their disabilities, social situation or dependencies on other people. When one’s decision-making always or often requires negotiation with another person (e.g. care provider, family member, relative), the major ethical problem concerning her sexual rights is about determining when providing care warrants limiting her liberties. In philosophical ethics this is called the problem of paternalism.

According to the liberal principles behind sexual rights, the liberties of a person should not be limited but only when her actions threaten to harm others. Also, one’s agency and decision-making should be respected in matters that affect only her. These demands create a dilemma, how should a care provider react, when one’s decisions are made with imperfect capabilities or they involve significant risks to her. In practice the ethical problem is under the shadow of power-related issues and value conflicts. When care providers, family members or others wield significant power upon a person, ethical issues may be overlooked in favor of power-wielder’s own values or decisions about the underdog’s sexual life and relationships. Promoting sexual rights in this kind of situation requires support for the underdog, negotiation with the power-wielders and consistent co-operation with all the care providers, educators and officials involved.

Speakers: Tommi Paalanen
Areas of Interest / Categories: WAS 2013

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