September 23, 2009

UNESCO’s Sex Ed Guidelines: Controversial But Necessary Updates

A new draft of a United Nations sexuality education guidelines has riled some conservatives who find the comprehensive sexuality plan outlined controversial.

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In June, the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO), published a draft of their new guidelines for sexuality education around the world titled, International Guidelines on Sexuality Education: An Evidence Informed Approach to Effective Sex, Relationships, and HIV/STI Education (link is a PDF of the 98 page document). The guideline updates focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive healthcare throughout the world by recommending comprehensive sexuality education that includes topics such as gender equality, contraception, sexual orientation, masturbation and the difference between legal (safe) and illegal (presumably unsafe) abortions. The full document is expected to be published in October. UNESCO describes the guidelines as “an evidence-informed and rights-based framework to give children and young people access to the knowledge and skills they need in their personal, social and sexual lives.”

A number of media outlets and blogs have covered the controversy surrounding the published draft, although SIECUS (a trusted source of sexuality education information) says that the New York Times article in particular unfairly exaggerated the controversy and negative remarks surrounding the document. According to the NYT, the opposition to some of the topics and learning objectives seem to stem mainly from US-based anti-abortion and conservative sex education groups such as the Population Research Institute and Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, respectively.

Nanette Ecker, a former SEICUS director who co-authored the guidelines said, ““Maths and science are valued as important knowledge for young people to have for their own sake. A sound sexuality education should be equally valued.”

I couldn’t agree more. I wonder how many of the conservative groups have even read the guidelines in their entirety? Or if they are keeping in mind that these are guidelines, not rules or funding mechanisms but recommendations from a global agency that has looked at and considered mountains of quality research on a huge number of sexuality topics and decided that the facts and learning objectives contained in this document will help children and adults across the world by using education to help slow or stop the spread of HIV and other STIs as well as protect the rights of citizens around the world without regard to their gender, sexual orientation, or sexual behaviors.

  • Mika S.P.

    I have read the contents in its entirety…have you?? I suppose you agree with its view that masturbation should be taught to children from ages 5-7…among other things.