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UNESCO Update! Making A Case for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)
In a world where child pornography, HIV/AIDS, STIs, Gender Based Violence (GBV), juvenile pregnancy and inequality pose serious risk to young people’s well-being, it is safer to teach both children and adolescents Sexuality Education in an organized learning environment than leave them to learn from inappropriate sources. The information should be age- and developmental-appropriate so that it would not violate children’s innocence or initiate them into early sexual behaviour.
Children require skill and knowledge to be able to master the action or reaction of their body to sexuality before been bombarded with stimuli. Although there is a genuine fear of triggering sexual exploration by children, this is a dilemma we have to confront proactively, not by pretense of inaction. Ministries of Education should work with other stakeholders to develop a Sexuality Education curriculum that is consistent with community values and stop vague criticism of the UNESCO’s guide on Sexuality Education.
To this end UNESCO has updated its Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) with evidence-based technical guidance. According to them, CSE is important for children to learn about safety, prevention and reporting of sexual abuse; understand the principles and facts of human reproduction; promote family and interpersonal relationships; promote confidence and self-management; responsible decision-making; healthy childhood and so on.
Obviously some societies are yet to adopt CSE due to the suspicion that it promotes lifestyles alternative to traditional sexuality. These societies or communities disapprove of certain sexual behaviour, sexual orientation, gender identity and medical services based on cultural and religious value system. However, UNESCO claims that it does not endorse or campaign for any particular lifestyle other than promoting health and well-being for all. The principle behind UNESCO’s CSE programme is that everyone including children has the right to information, service and choice of sexual behaviour, orientation and gender status devoid of being judgmental.
It is important to note however that the Sexuality Education is voluntary and not averse to discretion. UNESCO appreciates adaptations that is consistent with sound value system. Stakeholders in child education who perceive that CSE in schools is against their culture or religious value should instead of throwing away the bath water with the baby, work together with programme developers and providers. By this they could adapt contents with the key values relevant to their religion or culture. How faith-based communities want issues such as LGBT, abortion, contraception, and condoms to be taught to their children should be redesigned in consistence with their value system. This approach is better than the total withdrawal of their wards from CSE classes or withholding information, because in reality, children are exposed to dangerous information from other sources. Through collaboration they could also address certain harmful practices and social norms which dispose young women and girls to risks. This include Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), Child Early and Forced Marriage-(CEFM), and Gender Based Violence (GBV) among others.
CSE rightly asserted that abstinence is the best way to be safe from all risk associated with sex but it is believed that critiques want more. Guides are provided for adolescents who decide to be sexually active as in the use of condoms, contraception, non-penetrative sex, homosexuality, advocacy for safe abortion and healthy pregnancy care. Absence of guide for those who decide to abstain or delay sex is insinuated as the basis on which critiques alleged CSE to be a reinforcement for sexual activeness among adolescents. This is an area UNESCO should look into in future updates.
People also read: Sex Education Demystified
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