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Women’s sexual rights and empowerment beyond the liberal paradigm:

Understanding sexuality and power relations from the life experiences of young women

Authors
Ana Victoria Portocarrero
Publication year
2023

Women’s sexuality was originally included in the development agenda mainly in relation to health and risks. With time, it has started to be understood also through the lenses of the ‘empowerment’ and ‘rights’ approaches. This chapter looks at the way in which young Nicaraguan women experience and give meaning to their sexuality in their daily lives and in their interactions with two feminist organizations that work on the topics of sexuality and gender power relations from the perspective of empowerment and rights, including the right to pleasure. 

From the experiences of these young women, the chapter reflects on the theoretical and practical challenges that the ‘empowerment/rights’ frameworks pose to the understanding of women’s sexuality and their transformation processes. I argue that when working with young women in relation to these issues, more attention needs to be paid to the way power operates in their own context, to the way women give meaning and negotiate their sexuality, and to the processes instead of the outcomes of these negotiations. An empowerment/rights approach understood beyond liberal and individualistic conceptions of power, as well as a non-normative feminist conception of change that takes context and diversity as its starting point, are required in order not to reproduce oppression.

Women's sexual rights and empowerment beyond the liberal paradigm: Understanding sexuality and power relations from the life experiences of young women