Report on Workshop Sex and Power

We began the workshop brainstorming on the entanglements of sex and power and concluded that the institutional church is obsessed with sex and on the other hand structured by sex and sexuality: exclusion and making women invisible, imposition of hetero-normative patterns, Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae, mandatory celibacy, sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons, vulnerability of (high) clergy to blackmailing by all sorts of mafias through violation of mandatory celibacy and entanglement in prostitution networks, ….

How bring about changes?

Introducing democratic governance into the church as an institution, as the secular society has been engaged in doing for the past two centuries.

Brief account of the evolution of Human Rights, which developed opposed strongly by the Vatican, for whom they were anathema. 1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNO); 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall; 1990 the big UN Conferences. 1992: Rio – environment; 1993: Vienna – Human Rights, women’s rights are Human Rights; 1994: Cairo – International Conference on Population and Development: Sexuality and human reproduction are matters of Human Rights; 1995: Beijing – Women.

In 1963: John XXIII issues Pacem in terris: the Church eventually acknowledges that Human rights are compatible with Christian faith. They convert from a staunch opponent  to an international advocate for Human Rights. In 1964: Non Member State Permanent Observer at the UN.

At the 1990 UN Conferences the Vatican abuses of their unique UN status building alliances with other fundamentalists to systematically obstruct any advancement on women’s rights related to sexuality and human reproduction. The importance to achieve a clear separation of church and state becomes evident.

The “Decalogue of Sexual and Reproductive Rights” that Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir and many other feminist NGOs use for education purposes is presented:

Sexual Rights:

The right to enjoy a satisfactory and pleasant sexual life during the entire life cycle, free of coercion, discrimination and in the respect of a person’s autonomy. This implies the right to sexual health: a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in the field of sexuality.

Reproductive rights

Are based on the acknowledgement and respect for the moral capacity of making free and responsible decisions on procreating, free from any coercion, violence or discrimination. They imply the right to reproductive health: a general state of physical, emotional and social wellbeing, not simply the absence of illness, in all aspects related to the reproductive system, its functions and processes.

The Decalogue of Sexual and Reproductive Right

  1. Right to equality
  2. Right to sexual autonomy
  3. Right to freedom and bodily integrity
  4. Right to decide on the various reproductive options
  5. Right to information
  6. Right to sexuality education
  7. Right to sexual and reproductive health services
  8. Right to privacy and confidentiality
  9. Right to found a family
  10. Right to participation and freedom of religion, conscience and thought


A discussion follows, as one of the participants takes on the role of the devil’s advocate and questions the listed rights as leading to license, relativizing everything. But the careful analysis of the rights listed shows that no right can be taken as absolute but that all need to be taken into account.

The Yogyakarta Principles (2006) are mentioned, a list of 29 principles based on the universal Human Rights, that are particularly relevant for the LGTBIQ community.

Elfriede Harth (Rapporteur)