SAFER Training Programme (English)

GSP & CSE Theoretical Background – Comprehensive Sexuality Education

What is Comprehensive Sexuality Education?

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is defined as ‘a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality,’ (UNESCO, p.16). The objective of CSE is to equip children with the skills needed to protect their health, understand and realize their human rights, and cultivate respectful social and sexual relationships. More generally, CSE serves to empower young people in making decisions about their relationships and wellbeing (ibid).

CSE combines information from various disciplines in order to realize these aims. Fundamentally, CSE is: based on scientific evidence; is age-appropriate; is comprehensive; is sensitive to the cultural context in which it being delivered; is grounded in gender equality, and takes a human rights-based approach to health (UNESCO, p.17).

Why CSE?

A large body of evidence shows that comprehensive sexuality education helps young people safeguard against sexually transmitted infection, unintended pregnancies and unhealthy sexual relationships (UNESCO, 2015). It also improves young people’s decision-making skills and enhances their self-confidence, enabling them to make informed decisions about multiple aspects of their wellbeing (IPPF, 2016, p.13). CSE has been shown to encourage safe sexual behaviors and increased self-efficacy in decisions related to sexuality and relationships (UNESCO, 2015, p.14).

Given the focus of project SAFER, it is important to outline the significance of CSE in terms of addressing gender inequality. CSE should give young people the opportunity to critically reflect on gender in terms of its impact on our understanding of biology and social norms (UNESCO, 2018, p.17). Young people will consider the way in which gender informs social and sexual relationships, and the power dynamics present therein. The gender-sensitivity aspect of CSE should not be delivered as one section of the curriculum, but should be incorporated throughout (ibid). In this way, CSE dovetails with, and is informed by gender pedagogy, as it inspires critical reflection of gender inequality in terms of its impact on health and wellbeing. In the case of SAFER, particular focus will be given to the relationship between gender and power within relationships, as these are key elements of gender-based violence (EIGE, 2019).