UNESCO Updates Global Guidelines for Sex Ed
When communities around the world asked, “How should we implement sexual health education?” UNESCO answered.
Nearly 10 years ago, the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created a technical guide on sexuality education in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic – recently, they’ve expanded on that effort. Updates to the guidance are encouraging policymakers and educators around the world to invest in accurate and age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Studies from reputable institutions like Oxford University have shown, in this day and age, CSE is the most effective form of sexual health education available. The new volume, revised to provide solutions to global disparities, responds to modern movements such as the #MeToo movement, a social uproar around sexual assault and marginalization, by providing education within the structure of human rights and gender equality.
The updates are also a part of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, a call to action to leave no one behind in the quest for a sustainable global community. The CSE guidance touches on at least 9 of the 17 specific goals listed in the 2030 Agenda, including eliminating poverty and ensuring health and well-being for all. The ultimate goal of the prescribed education is to help young people learn to understand and manage their relationships. Given the prescribed age for implementing CSE is 5 – 24, the hope is young people will learn to manage friendships, family relations and –eventually– romantic and sexual relationships with confidence and empowerment, leading to healthy decision-making.
The goal of UNESCO’s guidance is to define and exemplify comprehensive sexuality education, and to garner support for the movement. Due to CSE’s holistic approach, it can be categorized and implemented in many ways, such as prevention education, relationship and sexuality education, family-life education, HIV education, life-skills education, healthy lifestyles and basic life safety.
CSE has been found to have positive outcomes such as:
- Delaying young people’s first experimentation with partnered sex
- Decreasing young people’s frequency of having sex
- Decreasing the number of sex partners in young people
- Increasing condom-use in teens who engage in sex
- Increasing use of contraception in teens who are having sex
- Reducing unintended pregnancies
- Reducing STI transmission rates
- Reducing gender-based violence
Several factors influenced the decision to promote comprehensive education surrounding sex and sexuality, some of the most pressing are the influence of technologies such as television, smartphones, social media, and the internet – which often offer the first exposure of sexual information and images to many young people. Other global issues, such as sexual violence, often against women, signaled the UN to write this guidance with a firm grounding in human rights and an understanding that sexuality is a natural part of human development. Much like UNESCOs first volume, the organization anticipates adapting the guidance with policymakers and educators.
Who worked on the guidance?
– United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
– United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
– The World Health Organization (WHO)
– United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
– as well as studies performed by the University of Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention and the United States-based organization Advocates for Youth
What do you think about the United Nations prescribing CSE? Tell us your thoughts in this poll.
The World Health Organization defines Sexual Health as: