Abortion The termination of a pregnancy, before 20 weeks of gestation. It is the premature removal from the uterus of the products of conception: fetus, fetal membranes and placenta.1 An abortion can occur either spontaneously, when it is called a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, or it can be brought about by deliberate intervention, when it is called an induced abortion. It is with this last meaning that the word is generally used. medical abortion is an abortion induced by drugs (e.g. mifepristone followed by misoprostol or gemeprost, or misoprostol alone). unsafe abortion An abortion performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards, or both. (Note: both legal and illegal abortions can be safe or unsafe.)
Abstinence Abstinence is a conscious decision to avoid certain sexual activities or behaviours. Definitions of sexual abstinence vary. They can mean no sexual contact, or no penetration (oral, anal or vaginal).
Adolescence The period during which an individual progresses from dependence on adults to autonomous adulthood. The World Health Organization and UN define adolescence as the period from 10–19 years of age.
Advocacy A campaign, strategy or other activity to influence political change and/or build support for a cause or issue. Advocacy is directed towards creating a favourable environment, by trying to gain support, and influence attitudes and behaviour, or change legislation.

Birth control Control of the number of children born, especially by preventing or reducing the number of conceptions. It is not a synonym for family planning or contraception. It refers to all methods of preventing births, including abstinence, contraceptives, male and female sterilization and abortion. Birth control also allows couples to determine the length of interval between children, or the spacing of their children.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)  is about sexuality and its expressions. It seeks to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, positive attitudes and values they need to determine and enjoy their sexuality – physically, individually and emotionally. Topics include relationships, love and emotions, individual and societal attitudes towards sexuality, sexual roles, gender relations, social pressures, sexual and reproductive rights, information about sexual and reproductive health, services and communication skills training. For more information on CSE, check out IPPF’s CSE Framework:2
Contraceptives Any practices, methods or devices that can be used to prevent pregnancy.

Double standards An unequal set of moral standards, rules or expectations, allowing one social group to have more privileges than another. A sexual double standard usually places more restrictions on women instead of on men.

Dual protection The simultaneous prevention from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancy. It can be achieved by the correct and consistent use of condoms alone, or by using condoms with another form of contraception.

Emergency contraception Prevention of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse, using hormonal
contraception (emergency contraception pills) or intra-uterine device (IUD). Emergency contraception pills may prevent ovulation or fertilization; they are more effective the sooner they are taken but have some effectiveness up to five days after unprotected intercourse. The IUD prevents fertilization or implantation and is highly effective in preventing pregnancy; it can be inserted up to five days after unprotected intercourse. Neither prevents infections, including HIV.

Empowerment Developing the ability to achieve full potential by changing existing power relationships and the forces that marginalize women and disadvantaged social groups. Goals include challenging and transforming behaviour, structures and institutions are responsible for discrimination and inequality (such as family and religion), and improving decision making and access to resources.
Family planning The conscious effort of couples or individuals to plan for, and attain, their desired number of children and to regulate the spacing and timing of the births. Family planning is achieved through abstinence, contraception, male or female sterilization, or the treatment of infertility.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female  genital or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. For more information visit: 3

Fistula Obstetric fistulae is a rupture that results in an abnormal passage linking two areas such as the vagina, rectum, bladder, and abdominal cavity. Obstetric fistulae are caused by difficult labour, unsafe abortion, and traditional practices such as female genital cutting.

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.4

Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.5

Gender identity Feelings about one’s gender and gender role. The way a person self-identifies as male, female, both or neither. It is different from a person’s biological sex.
gender norms/ Social standards of appropriate feminine and masculine behaviour. For roles/attributes example, most cultures have different expectations regarding the ways that men and women dress.
Gender-based violence All forms of violence targeted at an individual because of his or her gender, including, but not limited to, violence against women, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, community violence, and emotional or psychological abuse.

Gender equality The measurable equal representation and participation of women and men. Gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment.

Homophobia The term homophobia refers to prejudice, stigma, and discrimination against people who have sex with others of their same sex.

Homosexual refers to someone who is primarily attracted to person(s) of the same sex or gender. Even though the term is often used to refer to homosexual men, it is also inclusive of lesbians (women who have sex with women).

Hormonal Contraceptive method based on the use of hormones: progestogen and
contraception oestrogen combined, or progestogen alone. The methods of delivery include pills (oral contraceptives), injectables and implants for subdermal use. All are reversible (i.e. not permanent).

Hormonal contraceptives Methods of birth control that use hormones to prevent pregnancy: pills, implants for subdermal use, injectables, intra-uterine devices, vaginal rings and patches.

Types of Hormonal Contraceptives

Implants for subdermal use: last for years and contain low doses of a progestogen. One, two or six thinsilicone capsules are inserted subdermally in the woman’s arm by a minor surgical procedure under local anaesthesia. They may be removed at any time.
Injectables: Last longer than oral contraceptives. The first were composed of progestogen only, usually depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) with a duration of three months, and norethisterone oenanthate (NET-EN) lasting two months. Newer, monthly injectables contain oestrogen and progestogen.

Intra-uterine device (IUD): A device inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Intra-uterine devices are made of plastic and copper and may be non-medicated or
contain slow releasing hormones. IUDs prevent fertilization and, occasionally, implantation, for at least three years, and up to 12 years with some types of IUDs. They are effective for emergency contraception within five days of unprotected intercourse.
Patch: A small, thin square of flexible plastic worn on the body. Continuously releases a progestogen and an oestrogen. Hormones are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.
Pills (two types): Combined oral contraceptives (COCs) contain synthetic oestrogen and synthetic progestogen. Progestogen-only pills (POPs) contain only a progestogen, in a smaller dose than in combined oral contraceptives.
Vaginal ring: A flexible ring placed in the vagina. Continuously releases a progestogen and an oestrogen from inside the ring. Hormones are absorbed through the vaginal wall into the bloodstream, to be inserted for 3 weeks with 1 week rest. It is a very effective contraceptive method.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) : The virus that causes AIDS. There are two strains of HIV – HIV-1 (the most common) and HIV-2. The main ways in which HIV is passed on is through unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex, by sharing injecting equipment, and from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Most people remain well for years, especially with HIV-2, but opportunistic infections can evade the increasingly damaged immune system.
human rights the minimum standards that people require to live in freedom and dignity. For more information check out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was created by the United Nations in 1948:8

Human rights approach: The human rights approach to programming is based on applying the principles of participation, empowerment, interdependence, equality, mutual respect and non-discrimination.

Intersex is a congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. An estimate about the birth prevalence of intersex is difficult to make because there are no concrete parameters to the definition of intersex. The Intersex Initiative, a North-American based organization, estimates that one in 2,000 children, or five children per day in the United States, are born visibly intersex.9

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. It’s a label that includes a wide variety of people who do not identify as heterosexuals.10

Menstrual cycle The recurring female reproductive cycle of physiological changes in the uterus, ovaries and other sexual organs, which occur between the beginning of one menstrual period and the beginning of the next.

Menstruation Discharge of blood, secretions and tissue debris from the uterus through the vagina which recurs about every 21 to 35 days in non-pregnant females.

Men who have sex with men describes a behavioural phenomenon rather than a specific group of people. It is generally the preferred term because, in the context of
(MSM) HIV, the important issue is risk behaviour rather than sexual identity. It includes not only self-identified gay and bisexual men, but also men who engage in male-male sex and self-identify as heterosexual, or those whose sexual identity is but a part of their cultural self identification. In some contexts, ‘males who have sex with males’ is more accurate, since programmes may target males who are not yet adults (the United Nations defines children as those under 18). The term includes those who desire male-male sexual relations and who have such relations forced upon them.

Millennium Development Goals (MDG) An agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives by 2015  (announced at the UN Millennium Summit 2000)
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development
For more information on the MDGs, check out

Oral sex Sexual activity involving the mouth and sex organs.

Orgasm A pleasurable state of sexual arousal. In men, orgasm is almost always accompanied by ejaculation.

Reproductive health IPPF endorses the definition agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994 (Programme of Action, Paragraph 7.2): “Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the rights of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate healthcare services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant”.

Reproductive rights “Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence”.

Safer sex Any sexual practice to reduce the risks of unwanted pregnancy and transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to another person. Examples are non-penetrative sex or intercourse with a condom, to prevent the introduction of semen, vaginal fluid or blood, which can transmit HIV and other sexually transmitted infections into the sex partner’s body.

Sex The biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. The sets of biological characteristics tend to differentiate, but they are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both.

Sexism Prejudice against a certain gender – most often it is against women.

Sexual health A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. It requires a positive approach to sexuality and safe, pleasurable sexual relationships, and that the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

Sexual identity Feelings about one’s own sexual orientation, gender, gender role and gender identity.

Sexual intercourse Penetrative sexual behaviours, including oral sex, anal sex and penile-vaginal sex.

Sexuality The sexual knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviours of individuals. It includes the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of the sexual response system; identity, orientation, roles and personality; and thoughts, feelings and relationships. The expression of sexuality is influenced by ethical, spiritual, cultural and moral concerns.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Infections that spread primarily through person-to-person sexual contact. There are more than 30 different sexually transmissible bacteria, viruses and parasites. Several, in particular HIV and syphilis, can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, and through blood products and tissue transfer. (Based on World Health Organization definition).

Sexual orientation Refers to the primary sexual attraction to the same or opposite sex, or both sexes. Most societies find it hard to accept that homosexuality or bisexuality is a universal part of human sexuality. Many people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual neither experience nor desire a choice in their sexual orientation.

Sexual rights Sexual rights are human rights and apply to everyone no matter what age.15 IPPF endorses the definition agreed at the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995 (Platform for Action, Paragraph 96): “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences.”

Sexual rights and IPPF IPPF has two key documents that explain sexual rights: Sexualrights: an IPPF declaration and Exclaim!: Young people’s guide to ‘Sexual rights: an IPPF declaration’. These documents outline the 10 core sexual rights below, and Exclaim! explains how they relate to young people.
1. The right to equality;
2. The right to participation;
3. The right to life and to be free from harm;
4. The right to privacy;
5. The right to personal autonomy and to be recognized as an individual before the law;
6. The right to think and express oneself freely;
7. The right to health;
8. The right to know and learn;
9. The right to choose whether or not to marry or have children;
10. The right to have your rights upheld
For additional information, check out the Declaration and look out for Exclaim!, which will be published soon:

Transgender a gender identity of someone who self identifies as being a gender that is different from the gender assigned to him or her by society. The term also refers to people who appear or behave in a way that does not conform to dominant cultural gender norms. The term transgender does not imply that the individual leans towards a particular sexual orientation

Transphobia is prejudice against transsexuals, transvestites, and transgender individuals.19

Unmet need for family planning Estimates of women who would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using contraception, either because they lack knowledge about family planning or access to services, or because they face personal, cultural, religious and family obstacles.

Young people Girls and boys aged between 10 and 24 years.
Youth The World Health Organization refers to those in the 15–24 age range as youth.
Youth friendly The characteristics of, policies, programmes, resources, services or activities that attract young people, meet their sexual and reproductive health needs, and are acceptable and accessible to a diversity of young people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s