02.12.10 – Comprehensive sex education has gotten a major boost from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Earlier this month, the agency released international sex education guidelines that urge officials and teachers to give young people complete and accurate information about their bodies, sex, pregnancy, and birth control so that they know how to avoid pregnancy and disease.
Human Rights Standards Support Broad and Accurate Sex Education
The first guidelines of their kind from a UN agency, they reflect vital input from the Center. We met with UNESCO officials to lay out the human rights principles that call for comprehensive sex education, such as the rights to health and information, and our factsheet on the issue is cited by the final document.
The Center’s work with UNESCO comes on the heels of our case against Croatia over a misleading and biased sex-ed curriculum it tried to install in schools. Even though UNESCO is not a legal body, its positions are widely respected and we will incorporate their sex-ed guidelines in our shadow letters, lobbying, and litigation on the issue.
Comprehensive Sex Education Reduces Teen Pregnancy and STDs
The guidelines encourage age-appropriate discussion of masturbation, condom use, and emergency contraception, as well as access to safe abortion services and post-abortion care. Giving young people the facts about ways to prevent pregnancy and disease would seem like a no-brainer. Every year, more than 100 million young people between 10 and 25 develop STDs, and up to 4.4 million women between 15 and 19 seek abortions. Just a few weeks ago, a new study by the Guttmacher Institute found a rise in teen pregnancies in the U.S.-a trend that dovetails with the expansion of abstinence-only programs. Yet the release of the UNESCO guidelines was delayed for months because of opposition from U.S. conservatives.