This September, we have good reason to cheer and celebrate! The third annual World Sexual Health Day is celebrated on September 4th across many countries worldwide under the aegis of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), a worldwide group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promotes sexual health and sexual rights for all without discrimination or prejudice. The theme for 2012, “In a diverse world, sexual health for all,” encompasses, in its broad sweep, people of all ages, interests, needs and abilities.
But what do we mean by sexual health? Many people are likely to interpret sexual health as state of existence free from any type of sexually transmitted infections, or simply reproductive health, or maybe both. Well, this could be correct from an individual standpoint, but viewed from the kaleidoscope of humanity at large, WAS has broadened the meaning and scope of sexual health by adding elements like protection of sexual rights, gender equality, condemnation of sexual violence, access to comprehensive sexuality education and recognition of sexual pleasure as a natural and desirable component of well-being.
Indeed, the idea of sexual pleasure as a natural and important part of life is an ancient one. ‘Kama Sutra’, the ancient Indian text believed to be written between 400 BCE and 200 BCE, is the oldest treatise on human sexual behavior. Extending far beyond exquisite sexual postures, the reader is also enlightened on the significance of love, compatibility and virtues of gracious living. Ancient Indian temples like Khajuraho, Konark and Ajanta- Ellora are famous for the depiction of erotic art. The carvings on temple walls offer a visual treat of sexual imagery in all its beauty, passion and glory. The message coming out of the sanctum sanctorum of a place of worship and pilgrimage is loud and clear : enjoy sex – it is nearest to divinity.
An event such as ‘World Sexual Heath Day’ in the present globalized world signals a paradigm shift in our attitude towards sex. Efforts to educate the masses on sexual health will help to dispel myths and eradicate ignorance. ASHA will be celebrating sexual health all month, joining global events that will include seminars in academic settings, flash mobs and mini lectures in public places and information campaigns through social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube. Let us lend our voice and support by expressing our thoughts on sexual health. Such events absorb power and reverberate when men and women from all walks of life join in the chorus. Perhaps it is not a mystery to unravel as to what John Keats had in his mind when he wrote these beautiful lines:
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”