Why Do Young People Need Comprehensive Sexuality Education?

Camilo Saldarriaga, Guest Contributor

In recent years, millions of young voices have united to explain to their governments the importance and urgency of implementing comprehensive sexual education for adolescents and young people. As a young human rights activist, I am a part of this global effort.

One of the main characteristics of human beings is that our concept of culture changes and evolves. The same happens when we try to understand the social world around us, and the way we collectively understand such concepts. This process of constant transformation and evolution is what has led humanity to undertake one of the most ambitious goals of the last century: the elaboration of a universal concept of human rights that recognizes the rights of all human beings. Human sexuality and reproduction has been a part of this transformation and re- conceptualization.

The way in which we understand and live sexuality and reproduction has changed drastically, particularly with the evolution of the human rights approach and the gender perspective. Closely related to these new perspectives on sexuality and reproduction is the concept of sexual education.Decades ago, the very notion of sexual education was unthinkable. However, over time it became clear that there was a great need to provide sexual education, especially for adolescents and youth, not only because of its positive impact on public health and economic development, but for its capacity to empower people (including adolescents and youth), so they can make decisions in a free and responsible way.

From this perspective, the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) is key, as it is one of the first international documents that talks about the importance of sexual education, including sexual education for youth and adolescents. Despite the important advances achieved within the context of the ICPD PoA in the last 18 years, experience shows us that in order to guarantee the full enjoyment of our sexual and reproductive rights, we need to not only implement sexual education, but comprehensive sexuality education.

Comprehensive sexuality education seeks to address all of the fundamental aspects of human reproduction and sexuality, and therefore includes fundamental topics as: gender, sexual and reproductive health and HIV, sexual and reproductive rights, pleasure, prevention of violence, diversity and relationships. These topics are addressed from a human rights-based perspective, which seeks to equip young people and adolescents with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need to decide freely over their sexuality.

If the international community wants to address the real needs of youth, it is clear that we must recognize and implement comprehensive sexuality education. As a young person attending this 45th Session of the CPD, I urge governments to do so!

Camilo Saldarriaga is a board member of Asociación Demográfica Costarricense, IPPF/WHR's Member Association in Costa Rica.

Originally published by Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

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