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Sexual rights, mental disorder and intellectual disability: principles and law

  • Isabelle Le Gallez (a1), Keith J. B. Rix (a2), Kartina A. Choong (a3) and Helen Dewson (a4)

People with mental disorder and intellectual disability have the same rights to sexual expression as other people, albeit that in some cases a lack of capacity may require curtailment of those rights and regard must be had to protecting the vulnerable. Furthermore, the formation or maintenance of sexual relations, or the attainment of sexual fulfilment, may assist in the maintenance or restoration of mental health or well-being. This article demonstrates how the courts in England and Wales, applying statute law and judicial precedent, are largely supportive of the rights of people with mental disorder or intellectual disability to make decisions about sexual expression, sexual relationships and related matters, notwithstanding some societal and staff attitudes that act to prevent them fulfilling their sexual needs and making decisions about sexual and reproductive matters.


  • Understand the underlying principles that apply to the exercise of their sexual rights by people with mental disorder or intellectual disability
  • Understand some of the obstacles to the exercise of sexual rights by people with mental disorder or intellectual disability
  • Understand the statute and case law that apply to the exercise of sexual rights by people with mental disorder or intellectual disability



Corresponding author
Correspondence Isabelle Le Gallez, Edinburgh Law School Postgraduate Office, Old College, South Bridge, Central Campus, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK. Email:
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BJPsych Advances
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Sexual rights, mental disorder and intellectual disability: principles and law

  • Isabelle Le Gallez (a1), Keith J. B. Rix (a2), Kartina A. Choong (a3) and Helen Dewson (a4)
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