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June 13, 2019

New research busts myths about sexuality education


June 13, 2019

Islamabad: Comprehensive sexuality education is an essential part of good quality education that improves reproductive health and contributes to gender equality, argues Facing the Facts, a new policy paper by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at Unesco that seeks to dispel social and political resistance to sexuality education in many countries.

Globally, each year, 15 million girls marry before the age of 18, some 16 million 15-19 year old and one million girls under 15 give birth. Young people moreover account for a third of new HIV infections among adults and across 37 low and middle-income countries, yet only approximately one-third of people aged 15-24 years have comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission.

The new policy paper presents evidence of the benefits of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. Even children at the age of five need to understand basic facts about their body, think about family and social relationships and recognise inappropriate behaviour and identify abuse otherwise, many will grow up with inaccurate beliefs.

Children and young people should receive comprehensive sexuality education before they become sexually active. This helps them protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and promotes values of tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence in relationships. Nevertheless, vocal resistance to comprehensive sexuality education by some groups in a number of countries has been rising.

Introducing comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum is insufficient without adequate teacher training to bolster instructors’ motivation in addressing the full range of topics concerned. The paper has six key recommendations for countries: Invest in teacher education and support; Make curricula relevant and evidence-based; develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and ensure implementation; work with other sectors to bring about real change, notably with the health sector to link schools with health services and leverage funds; and engage with community and parent organisations to overcome resistance that is not based on facts.

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