Only 20 per cent countries have laws and 39 per cent have a national policy that specifically addresses sexuality education, according to UNESCO‘s Global Education Monitoring report.
The crucial report has pointed out that sexuality education in primary education is compulsory in 68 per cent countries and in secondary education in 76 per cent countries.
More than six in 10 countries cover topics such as gender roles, sexual and domestic abuse, and gender-based violence. One in two countries covers the concept of mutual consent. Contraception issues are covered in school curriculum in two-thirds of the countries.
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realise their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.
“Sexuality is an integral part of human life. However, confusing information and conflicting messages about relationships and sex can make the transition from childhood to adulthood difficult if young people are not properly supported and prepared with accurate scientific knowledge. Young people are increasingly demanding reliable information that prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life. To effectively engage young people in the learning process and respond to the full range of their needs, a balanced and comprehensive approach is required,” the Global Education Monitoring report said.
Experts have noted that CSE that is well-delivered, medically accurate, evidence-based and age-appropriate provides an opportunity for young people to be taught about sexuality in a balanced way. This includes its positive aspects such as love and relationships based on mutual respect and equality and helps to foster the conditions to create an inclusive society.
Mapping of the 50 country profiles in the report suggests that many countries recognise the importance of sexuality education in their education plans or visions but that gaps remain in their legislative and policy frameworks.
“Follow-up work by countries is thus required to address these gaps, raise awareness, inform all stakeholders and also to guide implementation. In 95 per cent of countries, education programmes mainly cover issues related to HIV and AIDS and other STIs. Only 17 per cent of countries cover sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression issues — the least covered areas in CSE curricula. Issues related to biology, anatomy, body awareness, puberty, pregnancy and birth are also covered frequently. Moreover, three in four countries cover issues related to human rights, and more than two in three countries deal with issues related to love, marriage, partnerships and family,” it said.
The report has pointed out that while legal frameworks do not guarantee their implementation, they are a crucial pillar for ensuring an enabling policy environment.
“Countries with particular CSE laws or resolutions indicate higher levels of CSE implementation and long-term sustainability. In the absence of legislation and resources to develop and administer CSE in education systems, CSE may be susceptible to political or cultural shifts in priority. Policies or plans covering CSE are much more frequent than laws, suggesting countries’ aspiration to progress on sexuality education,” the report stated.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light already-existing educational and health difficulties. The epidemic has exacerbated educational, health, and gender disparities. CSE is essential to empower young people, adolescents and children with information, knowledge and skills in different domains,” the report stated.
“More efforts should also be directed at filling the gaps between the stated outcome in laws and policies and what happens in practice. Making sexuality education compulsory is important but this is not happening everywhere. Budget allocation towards sexuality education is rare, even in countries that have recorded the most progress in this area. Only a few countries collect data to track progress on how well sexuality education is taught and learned in school,” the report added.