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. CSE is also important as it can help young people reflect on social norms, cultural values and traditional beliefs, in order to better understand and manage their relationships with peers, parents, teachers, other adults and their communities.