We examined the breadth of research on sex, sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights with young people with intellectual disability in the past two decades.
An inclusive scoping approach focused on agency and resilience was used to review studies in English-speaking, high-income countries (2000–2019).
In the 68 studies included, we found positive examples of sexual and reproductive agency across five key domains: 1) sexual development including sexual desire, identities, relationships, and menstruation, 2) sexual knowledge including sexuality education and sexual self-advocacy, 3) sexual activity and contraceptive use, 4) access to HPV immunization and cervical cancer screening, and 5) pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. The strongest factors in enabling agency were social support and sexuality education. However, several barriers including paternalist attitudes and infantilization of young people with intellectual disability affected all aspects of sexual expression, leading to the persistence of unfair and avoidable health inequities over the past two decades.
Ensuring young people with intellectual disability have a voice on all matters affecting their bodies, even if they have high support needs, is essential to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
Anti-ableist policies in sexual and reproduction health (e.g., education curriculum, service delivery) are key to moving forward.
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Carter, A., Strnadová, I., Watfern, C. et al. The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Young People with Intellectual Disability: A Scoping Review. Sex Res Soc Policy (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-021-00549-y
- Young people
- Intellectual disability
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights
- Inclusive research