In its new report “Stand and Deliver,” the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is demanding that governments, religious institutions and society at large provide “comprehensive sexuality education” for children as young as ten years old.
In a foreword, Bert Koenders of the Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, which helped fund the publication, asserts that, “Young people have the right to be fully informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services. These rights are enshrined in various internationally agreed human rights convention and treaties, but – unfortunately – they are still not universally respected.”
According to IPPF, as “young people are sexual beings,” it should be self-evident that “sexuality education promotes individual well-being and the advancement of broader societal and public health goals.” IPPF argues that “comprehensive sexuality education” must be mandatory in school, and governments must also ensure that this education is delivered to those young people who are out of school.
IPPF claims that “With young people as partners, today’s adult decision-makers have the chance to recast sex and sexuality as a positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights and an expression of self.”
IPPF contends that comprehensive sexuality education is necessary to encourage young people’s “self-esteem, thoughtful decision-making and negotiation skills and it helps them to develop satisfying and pleasurable sexual lives.” Moreover, IPPF expounds that the “power” of comprehensive sexuality education “to challenge traditional gender roles” must not be underestimated.
The IPPF report stresses granting young people “unconstrained” access to sexuality education and services, “free from administrative restrictions and obstacles,” like requiring health providers to obtain parental or spousal permission before providing contraceptives. IPPF demands that young people be able to “obtain the services they need and want, unconstrained by psychological, attitudinal, cultural or social factors.”
IPPF targets religion and religious groups as one of the main barriers to adolescent access to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive “services.” IPPF criticizes that many religious teachings “deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex and limited guidelines for sexual education often focus on abstinence before marriage,” which IPPF claims has been ineffective in many settings.
According to IPPF, religious institutions – like the Catholic Church and Islamic schools – need to be “pragmatic” to accommodate young people as “sexual beings” and amend their teachings to “find a way of explaining and providing guidance on issues of sex and sexual relationships among young people, which supports rather than denies their experiences and needs.”
Sexual education has been a topic of heated debates at the United Nations, with many critics fearing that parental rights to educate their children will be violated. Just last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a set of sexual education guidelines that were met with such staunch resistance from conservatives that the organization was forced to take down the document from its website and review.
Critics expect more debates over “comprehensive sexuality education” to flare up in the coming months as UN Commission season gets underway.