Comprehensive sexuality education to prevent gender-based violence

UNESCO, UNFPA, and UN Women presented the revised UN Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education at ‘Education for a Healthy Future’ – at an event on 13 March on the sidelines of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at UN Headquarters. The event follows International Women’s Day on 8 March, and the strengthened call for all people to think, act and be gender inclusive.

The prevalence of gender-based violence

Every year, an estimated 246 million children are subject to some form of gender-based violence, including mistreatment, bullying, psychological abuse and sexual harassment in or on the way to school. 25% of children experience physical violence and 36 % experience emotional violence.

Educating young people is the only true, long-term solution to gender-based violence. However, it must be high-quality, age-appropriate, and evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education.

Contrary to what opponents of sexuality education often claim, CSE is not just about sex. When delivered well, it promotes health and well-being, respect for human rights and gender equality, and empowers children and young people to lead safe and productive lives. Notably, it teaches that all forms of gender-based violence are wrong, and a violation of human rights.

Young people not only learn how to recognise and stay away from all forms of gender-based violence, but they also learn how to prevent it, to not perpetrate it, and know where to get help. They also learn essential life skills such as empathy, negotiation, decision-making and critical thinking, encouraging them to question social and cultural norms that support unequal gender and power structures, and which often lead to violence. 

The importance of comprehensive sexuality education

Despite clear and compelling evidence for the benefits of curriculum-based CSE, too few children and young people receive it. To help change this, UNESCO has published a fully updated International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.

Produced in collaboration with UNAIDS, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Technical Guidance helps education, health and other relevant authorities develop and implement sexuality education programmes and materials.

It advocates CSE to help young people overcome the challenges posed by sexuality and reproductive health issues, which are particularly difficult during puberty. These challenges include access to contraception, early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and AIDS. Read more via UNESCO