The evidence is clear. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) leads to improved sexual and reproductive health, resulting in the reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy. It not only promotes gender equality and equitable social norms, but has a positive impact on safer sexual behaviours, delaying sexual debut and increasing condom use.
The findings have been revealed in a new report examining CSE status in 48 countries across the world, ‘Emerging Evidence, Lessons and Practice in Comprehensive Sexuality Education - A Global Review 2015’. Published by UNESCO, in consultation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UNAIDS Secretariat, the report shows that almost 80 per cent of assessed countries have policies or strategies in place that support CSE.
In the Asia-Pacific region, 21 out of 25 countries’ national HIV strategies referenced the role of education, in West and Central Africa, most countries had a policy on life-skills based HIV and AIDS sexuality education, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, health and education ministers signed a declaration affirming a mandate for national school-based sexuality and HIV education.
However, Senior Programme Specialist in Health Education at UNESCO, Joanne Herat said that, despite the increased political will, there remained a significant gap between the many global and regional policies in place and the implementation on the ground.
“Young people are consequently often denied even the most basic information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Herat said. “Thankfully, a global movement has galvanized around ensuring universal access to CSE, with youth-led movements calling for stronger responses, and sustained commitment. This has played a major role in the scaling-up of sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services globally.”
The report also found that teacher training was crucial to the effective delivery of CSE. In fact building teacher capacity to deliver age-appropriate, culturally-relevant CSE, is proven to support the development of learners’ life skills.
“We also need to be looking to programmes which address gender or power relations, as they have been associated with a significant decrease in pregnancy, childbearing or STI’s,” Herat said. “CSE empowers young people to reflect on their behaviours, their environment, and their attitudes regarding gender and rights, all critical factors for improving health outcomes and HIV infection rates.”
The report found that effective implementation and scale-up of CSE is reliant on engagement and support from parents and whole communities.
The report was made possible with support from the Governments of Sweden and Norway.
Download the Full Report HERE