• University of Groningen logo

Religion and Sexual Wellbeing: Pleasure, Piety, and Reproductive Rights

Explore how religion, culture, and politics intersect with women’s sexual wellbeing.

Educators are currently active on this course

Delft blue couples by Gabriela Bustamante

Examine the role of religion in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

Reproductive rights are at the forefront of many of today’s most heated political and ideological battles. Understanding the relationship between religion, gender, and sexual wellbeing is crucial to understanding the world today.

On this course, you’ll reflect on sexuality as a private and public affair, exploring people’s lived experiences around sexuality, intimacy and pregnancy.

Examine the role of religion in sexual wellbeing

You’ll explore the difference between religion as a lived experience, and religion as prescribed by religious authorities in relation to sexual activity and health.

You’ll examine how sexuality can be the cause of ideological debate as much as a source of enrichment, and explore the dynamics of the current polarisation around reproductive rights in relation to local, national and global histories.

Explore sexual wellbeing alongside experts

Using real-world case studies from the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and the Netherlands you’ll reflect upon how people become sexually knowledgeable, and how we can combat gendered forms of violence.

You’ll come away able to investigate the consequences of cultural polarisation around reproductive rights, and to reflect on how to support people’s sexual wellbeing and health.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Religion, gender, sexuality, themes that are so often subject of public debates, of media storms, of strong opinions. In this course on religion and sexual wellbeing, we take you on a journey from exploring how these themes came to be politicised globally to how they interact in people’s lives. In the Philippines, you will get to know Bernadette and Vilma, their stories around sex, contraceptives, and pregnancy, and how religion featured in their choices or lack of them. You will analyse how religion and other cultural influences are part of people’s everyday life via the networks of relationships they are part of. After that, you will visit Zimbabwe, where you will hear the story of Grace and her husband.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds They have different ideas and aspirations when it comes to how many children they want. You will explore challenges women face to make their own decisions in the context of violence between women and men. What is the role of religion in legitimising violence? And how do people draw on religion to transform inequality and violence? Finally, you will turn to the Netherlands. This country prides itself on its openness on matters of sex, often explicitly pointing at religion as a barrier. How do young people in the Netherlands communicate about sexuality? How do they learn? And what is the role of religion here? In this course, you learn how religious ideas and practises play a role in sexual wellbeing.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds This course will help you move beyond the strong opinions that fuel controversy and take up a more informed stance on religion, gender, and sexuality. Are you ready to join us on this journey? Let’s go.


  • Week 1

    Polarization, religion and sexual wellbeing

    • Setting the scene

      In this activity we introduce the main themes of this course. Learners will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to one another, and learn more about the educators of the course.

    • Introducing polarization and grand schemes

      Learners will be introduced to the relevance of polarization and encouraged to find their own examples.

    • The context of polarization: Beijing and beyond

      To understand polarization, we need to put it in context. In this activity, we look back to the historical event of the Beijing Conference on women's rights of 1995.

    • Sexual health and sexual well-being

      In this activity, we introduce the concept of sexual well-being, and begin to think about its many meanings and applications.

    • Wrapping up

      In this activity, we review and wrap up this week and introduce what weeks 2-4 of the course have in store.

  • Week 2

    Philippines: religion in policy and in everyday life

    • Welcome to Week 2

      In this week we will move back and forth between the level of public debate around major changes in law and that of every life: how does religion figure into questions around contraception, pregnancy and living a good life?

    • Sexual wellbeing, pregnancy and religion

      In this activity, you will be introduced to the dilemmas around contraceptive choices and pregnancy in relation to the histories of reproductive rights and services in the Philippines and other contexts

    • Digging deeper into the Philippine context

      In this activity, you will learn how the grand schemes of SRHR relate to local cultural contexts influenced by globalization, and women's relational context

    • Analyzing pluralism in your specific setting

      In this activity, you will apply the procedure of the previous activity to your own personal or professional context, analysing the ways various grand schemes intersect with other cultural influences.

    • Wrapping up Week 2

      In this final section of Week 2, you will review what you have learnt in this week and in the course so far.

  • Week 3

    Zimbabwe: SRHR and gendered forms of violence

    • Introduction to Week 3

      In this activity, you will learn more about the content of Week 3 of this course, where we will discuss some difficult and potentially triggering topics.

    • Everyday lives and grand schemes in Zimbabwe

      In this activity, you will be introduced to the case study of Kore Kore women in Zimbabwe. We will see the challenges these women face in making decisions regarding SRHR, and the strategies they develop to navigate this.

    • Women's perspectives

      In the first week, we discussed the policies around SRHR. In this activity, you will get an understanding of the concrete challenges women experience, and the ways they respond.

    • Exploring men's roles in GBV

      In this activity, we think about the ways in which culture and religion are entangled in constructions of masculinity and femininity. What are the implications of this? How do religious actors address GBV?

    • Religion and gender transformation

      In this activity, we will explore the meaning of "agency" for religious women. We will also see what interventions are used to transform gender relations, and how these interventions draw on cultural and religious resources.

    • Wrapping up Week 3

      In this final activity of Week 3, we wrap up the week and outline the link between the week's themes and Grand Schemes and Everyday Lives.

  • Week 4

    The Netherlands: becoming sexually knowledgeable

    • Week 4 introduction

      In this first activity, you will read an introduction to the contents of Week 4 of this course.

    • Everyday lives and grand schemes in the Netherlands

      In this activity, you will learn more about how people become sexually knowledgeable in the Netherlands in formal and informal contexts

    • How do people become sexually knowledgeable?

      In this activity, you will be introduced to several case studies which shine a light on the different ways that people navigate becoming sexually knowledgeable in the Netherlands.

    • Polarization between religious and secular views on sex

      In this activity, we will look in detail at the grand schemes and everyday life narratives that lead to dynamics of polarization between religious and secular actors around sexuality.

    • Mediators

      In this activity, we shift our attention to mediators, both religious and non-religious, who facilitate work to enable sexual wellbeing.

    • Wrap up course

      In this final activity of the course, you will look back on what you have learned during the previous weeks. In addition, you will be asked to do a final assignment, applying the concepts of this course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 2 May 2022 - 1 Jul 2022

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the dynamics of current polarization in cases on sexual health and reproductive rights you observe in the media in relation to their local, national and global histories.
  • Investigate the differences and interactions between ‘grand schemes and everyday life’ concerning religion and sexuality.
  • Identify the context of religion and sexuality in specific cultural and gendered contexts.
  • Reflect on all the different contexts through which people become sexually knowledgeable.
  • Investigate the consequences of the polarizing dynamics between religious and secular actors concerning possibilities to improve sexual wellbeing.
  • Reflect on how to position yourself in a way that supports people’s sexual wellbeing and health.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in the topics covered. More specifically, it could benefit faith-based and secular organisations that promote sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) across the globe.

Who will you learn with?

Associate Professor Sociology and Anthropology of Religion

I do research and lecture on religion & diversity, health & wellbeing, family relations, gender and sexuality in Western Europe and Sub Sahara Africa.

Rachel Spronk is Associate Professor, department of anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. She works at the intersection of three scholarly fields - anthropology, gender & sexuality studies.

Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

In collaboration with

University of Amsterdam png logo

Endorsers and supporters

funded by

Dutch Research Council png logo

Ways to learn

Buy this course

Subscribe to Unlimited

Join with limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!


One-off payment


Automatically renews


Unlock your expertiseAccess hundreds of coursesTry this course - with limits
Access to this courseticktickLimited to 4 weeks
Access to ALL eligible coursescrosstickcross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Certificate when you're eligiblePrinted and digitalDigital onlycross
Buy this course

Ways to learn

Subscribe to Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses or buy just this course for extra benefits. Or, join with limited access.

Subscribe to Unlimited


Automatically renews

Access hundreds of courses

  • Access to this course
  • Access to ALL eligible short courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Buy this course


One-off payment

Unlock your expertise

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Join with limited access


Try before you buy

  • Limited access to course content for 4 weeks

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLreligionsexuality to talk about this course on social media.