When does sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice mat­ter? All the time.

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Sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice (SRJ) mat­ters all the time for every­body. Orig­i­nally cre­ated in 1994 by a small group of black women re­pro­duc­tive health and rights ac­tivists, re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice (RJ) has be­come the guid­ing frame­work for so­cial change and hu­man rights ac­tivism across the US and around the world.

Re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice, at its most ba­sic def­i­ni­tion, was about clearly defin­ing the rights, re­sources and agency of women to: have the chil­dren they want to have; not have the chil­dren they do not want to have; and to par­ent the chil­dren they choose to – with the equal­ity, eq­uity, pro­tec­tions and rights needed to pur­sue any of those choices.

I added the sex­ual com­po­nent to my own un­der­stand­ing of RJ be­cause so much of the work I do with HIV and the so­cial de­ter­mi­nants that drive it con­nects me to peo­ple who may not have uteruses, who may not be con­form­ing to gen­der “norms” or who may not fit in­side the con­ven­tional re­pro­duc­tive rights con­struct, but want to have the free­dom to love, have sex and have fam­i­lies on their own terms.

SRJ mat­ters all the time be­cause in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity mat­ters, all the time. When civil rights ad­vo­cate Kim­berlé Wil­liams Cren­shaw coined the term, in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity it­self was nar­rower in its scope and def­i­ni­tion than it has be­come through the de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­sect­ing move­ments. This is some­thing that the far right has rec­og­nized and be­come even more fear­ful of. They can now see that the LGBTQ+, women’s rights, anti-poverty, anti-vi­o­lence, dis­abil­ity rights, hous­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists and so many other move­ments are find­ing their way to sol­i­dar­ity with each other – we are be­com­ing more in­ter­sec­tional in our move­ment build­ing and in our fight – and we have a long way to go.

But, when a white su­prem­a­cist web­site can pub­licly de­fend the mur­der of Heather Heyer (#char­lottesville) by call­ing her fat and child­less – and then go on to rant about how her weight and her de­ci­sion to not be a mother makes her a bur­den­some drain and pariah in “their coun­try” – then we know they are afraid for the uni­fi­ca­tion of our move­ments. They could eas­ily have been den­i­grat­ing a poor black woman, but this woman was white (priv­i­leged)! I was sur­prised they didn’t pre­sume any­thing about her sex­u­al­ity!

In­ter­sec­tion­al­ity can be a win­ning strat­egy be­cause dig­nity and qual­ity of life are the es­sen­tial goals. Power and agency are the es­sen­tial tools. Know­ing how to nav­i­gate the in­ter­sec­tions of per­sonal, phys­i­cal, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, cul­tural and sex­ual re­al­i­ties for in­di­vid­u­als and for groups is crit­i­cal to af­fect­ing change, es­pe­cially so­cial change. SRJ mat­ters all the time be­cause it takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the whole­ness of one’s hu­man­ity. It helps us dis­man­tle the no­tions of mar­gins and main­stream. SRJ mat­ters all the time be­cause, by the gift of black women’s wis­dom to de­fine our own re­al­ity, it cre­ates space for all peo­ple to do the same.

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