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Informing, setting the agenda, convincing… #6

This is certainly not the time to rest on our laurels. Rutgers has therefore adopted an ambitious approach to defending and promoting the right to sexual health. We remain committed to carrying out thorough research and providing broad-based information. However, we are also truly keen to subsequently have a positive influence on politics and the government.

And we pursue this aim by invariably seeking dialogue at both national and international levels. With policy-makers, with opinion leaders, with politicians and on the international playing fields of the UN and the EU. Our message: everyone has the right to both freely pursue a healthy sex life and self-determination when it comes to one’s sexual identity, forging relationships and pregnancy.

Goedele Liekens and young people in Diuch Parliament (Credits: Freek van den Bergh)
Goedele Liekens and young people in Dutch Parliament (Credits: Freek van den Bergh)

Goedele’s sex lesson

General elections were held in the Netherlands in 2017. The ‘sex lesson’ that Rutgers organised in the run up to the elections attracted quite considerable media attention. Sexologist Goedele Liekens chaired a debate between sitting members of the Dutch parliament and school students from throughout the country. Among the most striking conclusions drawn: attention to sexual assertiveness should be designated one of the core goals of education.

The sexual education lesson held during a committee meeting in the Lower House of Dutch Parliament. The lesson caused quite a stir due to the positive and open atmosphere it generated, but also in view of the distinct absence of representatives of the Christian political parties.

“Sex entails a lot more than biology lessons… It’s not just about the plumbing, after all, is it?’’

Goedele Liekens (Sexologist)

Meetings such as this sexual education lesson are vital opportunities to Rutgers in its endeavour to have sexual health issues and the decision whether to start a family included in parties’ election programmes. Behind the scenes, too, Rutgers remains in constant dialogue with politicians, with a view to achieving this objective.

Going forward

Rutgers, Aidsfonds and Share-Net organised an election debate with future Members of Parliament in 2017. It is our intention to ensure that the Netherlands remains the leading country in promoting sexual rights and combatting HIV and AIDS worldwide.

“Particularly a country with an open society like the Netherlands is well equipped to raise issues designed to break taboos. Respect for women and people with HIV are universal human rights. We need to fight to ensure that they are observed: it’s not just nice to do, but something we need to do!’’

Bram van Ojik (GroenLinks political party)

Political Sexuality Guide

The 2017 elections struck us as a good opportunity to inform the general public about the ‘state of sexuality’ in Dutch politics. And we opted to do so using the online Political Sexuality Guide (Dutch). The guide shows to what extent political parties’ positions correspond to your own views on matters including abortion, HIV/AIDS prevention, international cooperation and gender rights. Created in 2016, the online guide went live in 2017. It was completed by over 40,000 visitors of the site!

Going forward

The outcome of the Dutch elections offer relatively optimistic prospects for the future. A parliamentary majority appears to favour the extension of paid paternity leave, greater investment in the prevention of FGM and universal access to contraceptives worldwide.

Every euro that one invests in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) ultimately yields around 108 euros. This is because men and women who have the freedom to decide about their own lives are gainfully employable.

Kelvin Mokaya (Kenya) at the HLPF together with Liliane Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. (Credits: Joel Sheakoski)
Kelvin Mokaya (Kenya) at the HLPF together with Liliane Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. (Credits: Joel Sheakoski)

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations has defined a 2030 Agenda comprising Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include ambitious commitments for 2016 in the field of gender equality, sexual health and reproductive rights. Governments of countries that have endorsed the SDGs can therefore be held accountable by NGOs to meet their commitments, a matter which Rutgers which firmly supports.

No less than 42% of the global population are under the age of 25.


In 2016 we jointly organised a roundtable debate on the significance of youth participation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Discussion of the issue in the UN was held during its first High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, which was chaired by Mrs Lilianne Ploumen (Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade). Participants included policy-makers, representatives of NGOs and over twenty young people from numerous countries. As an NGO itself, Rutgers was designated an official member of the Dutch Government Delegation.

“People become the victim of violence or discrimination on an almost daily basis, due to their age, religion, skin colour, sexual persuasion or some other random characteristic. It is therefore high time for the amendment of legislation and implementation of clear government policy, so that literally no one is marginalised any longer.’’

Rineke van Dam (Member of the Dutch HLPF delegation )

Going forward

The Netherlands also committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. It is due to report to the UN on the current state of affairs in 2017. In this regard, Rutgers will therefore report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the Netherlands.

Right Here Right Now

The Right Here Right Now (RHRN) alliance was forged in 2016. This amounted to several NGOs, led by Rutgers, forming a strategic partnership with the met the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Together with another eleven partner countries, we shall advocate in favour of both improved public information and increased access to healthcare for young people. A grant of over 34.6 million euro has been earmarked for this five-year programme.

The Right Here Right Now programme offers us the opportunity to jointly carry out advocacy at national, regional and international levels alike. In 2016 the participating nations held workshops with existing organisations and those operating in the field. A great deal has already been invested in setting up local platforms and getting young people themselves involved. The platforms in each of the countries have all drawn up a working plan for the next two years.

The working plans are to be further developed into concrete activities in 2017. The participating countries are also to share best practices with one another.


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