Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) plays a central role in the preparation of young people for a safe, productive, fulfilling life in a world where HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence (GBV) and gender inequality still pose serious risks to their well-being. However, despite clear and compelling evidence for the benefits of high-quality, curriculum-based CSE, few children and young people receive preparation for their lives that empowers them to take control and make informed decisions about their sexuality and relationships freely and responsibly.
Many young people approach adulthood faced with conflicting, negative and confusing messages about sexuality that are often exacerbated by embarrassment and silence from adults, including parents and teachers. In many societies, attitudes and laws discourage public discussion of sexuality and sexual behaviour, and social norms may perpetuate harmful conditions, for example gender inequality in relation to sexual relationships, family planning and modern contraceptive use. A significant body of evidence shows that CSE enables children and young people to develop: accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills; positive values, including respect for human rights, gender equality and diversity, and, attitudes and skills that contribute to safe, healthy, positive relationships.
The International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education was developed to assist education, health and other relevant authorities in the development and implementation of school-based and out-of-school comprehensive sexuality education programmes and materials. It is immediately relevant for government education ministers and their professional staff, including curriculum developers, school principals and teachers. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth workers and young people can also use the document as an advocacy or accountability tool, for example by sharing it with decision-makers as a guide to best practices and/or for its integration within broader agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Guidance is also useful for anyone involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of sexuality education programmes both in and out of school, including stakeholders working on quality education, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), adolescent health and/or gender equality, among other issues.