A fully updated International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education published by UNESCO advocates quality comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to promote health and well-being, respect for human rights and gender equality, and empowers children and young people to lead healthy, safe and productive lives.
The Technical Guidance is designed to facilitate countries’ effort to provide children and young people with accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills to help them build up positive relationships. It was produced in collaboration with UNAIDS, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education benefits from a new review of the current evidence, and reaffirms the position of sexuality education within a framework of human rights and gender equality,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “It promotes structured learning about sex and relationships in a manner that is positive, affirming, and centred on the best interest of the young person. By outlining the essential components of effective sexuality education programmes, the Guidance enables national authorities to design comprehensive curricula that will have a positive impact on young people’s health and well-being.”
Based on a review of the current status of sexuality education around the world and drawing on best practices in the various regions, the Guidance demonstrates that sexuality education has positive effects on young people, allowing them to become more responsible in their attitudes and behaviour with regard to sexual and reproductive health.
The publication shows that sexuality education, in or out of schools, does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behavior, or STI/HIV infection rates. It also presents evidence showing that abstinence-only programmes fail to prevent early sexual initiation, or reduce the frequency of sex and number of partners among the young.
The publication identifies an urgent need for high quality, curriculum-based CSE, which is still unavailable in all too many countries around the world due to persistent resistance, depriving all too many young people of guidance about physical, social and emotional development as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
The Guidance advocates CSE to help young people overcome the challenges posed by sexual and reproductive health issues, which are particularly difficult during puberty. These challenges include access to contraception, early pregnancy, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV and AIDS. They are exacerbated by the internet, where a great deal of material of varying quality relating to sexuality abounds, and by the pressure of cyberbullying, which is on the rise.
Conceived to help education, health and other relevant authorities develop and implement sexuality education programmes and materials, the publication recognizes the need to adapt sexuality education to the diverse of contexts in which it is taught. But the Guidance also reaffirms the central relationship between sexuality education and human rights, notably gender equality, in all contexts.
The Technical Guidance clarifies the definition and content of comprehensive sexuality education, outlining key concepts, topics and learning objectives which should guide the development of locally-adapted curricula for learners aged 5 – 18+. These include:
- Values, rights, culture and sexuality;
- Understanding gender;
- Violence and staying safe;
- Skills for health and well-being;
- The human body and development;
- Sexuality and sexual behavior; and
- Sexual and reproductive health.
The Technical Guidance also includes recommendations for all stages of CSE programme development, from planning and delivery, to monitoring, evaluation and scale up.