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Fact Check-Failure to find a sexual partner is not considered a disability by the WHO

Failure to find a sexual partner is not considered a disability by the World Health Organization (WHO), despite claims made online.

An image of an article has been circulating on social media with a headline that reads: “Failure to find sexual partner now a disability – WHO” (here).

A yellow, roughly drawn box highlights text in the article that reads: “People who do not have sex or struggle to find a sexual partner to have children, will now be considered disabled.”

The writer cites reports suggesting that new guidelines are set to be released whereby a person who is “unable to find a suitable sexual partner or achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex” will be considered disabled.

The screenshots come from an article featured on the Swazi Observer (now Eswatini Observer) (see here), but no such article appears in search results (here). The paper did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Examples of the image can be seen (here), (here), (here) and (here).

One individual who shared the image on Instagram said: “See oh, WOrld health organization [sic] has said it. If you’re not having sex you’re disabled , if you do not have a sexual partner you’re disabled” (here).

Several media reports in 2019 had suggested that the WHO was planning on changing its definition of infertility to include those who cannot find a sexual partner (archive.is/wjlxj) (archive.is/1L8ey).

However, the inability to find a sexual partner is not defined as a disability by the organization and the reports were refuted by the WHO in 2019 and 2020.

The claim was previously addressed by the AFP and Africa Check website in 2019 (here) (here).

The WHO “defines disability as the impairments, activities limitations and participation restrictions that result from the interaction between a health condition (in this case infertility), environmental barriers (such as negative attitudes of society) and personal factors (such as situation of poverty),” a WHO spokesperson for said via email.

The spokesperson linked to a webpage where the organization details its definition of infertility as a “disease of the reproductive system” which can be viewed (here).

In February 2020, the WHO released a statement saying the organization had no plans to change its definition of infertility (here).

The suggestion that the WHO was intending to change its definition of infertility to include those who cannot find a sexual partner to conceive first surfaced in media reports in 2016 (archive.is/kiwuQ), (archive.is/wip/kFUmq), (archive.is/1L8ey).

The WHO refuted the reports via Twitter at the time, posting that it had not changed its definition of infertility (here), (here).

VERDICT

False. The failure of finding a sexual partner is not considered a disability by the WHO. Suggestions first circulated in media reports in 2016 which the organization refuted at the time.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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