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Girls & Women

Sex Ed: Barriers and Benefits

In many parts of the world, government officials, school principals, teachers and parents are not convinced of the need for sexuality education and are reluctant to provide it, because it is believed to promote sexual activity.

In fact, no study to date has found evidence that providing young people with sexual and reproductive health information and education results in increased sexual activity.

Moreover, comprehensive sexual education classes have been proven to reduce misinformation and increase young people’s skills to make informed decisions about their health.

The United Nations Population Fund has found that some programs delayed initiation of sexual intercourse by 37 %, reduced the frequency of sex by 31 %, reduced the number of sexual partners by 44 % and increased the use of condoms and contraception by 40 %.

What are the main barriers to providing sexual education?

1. Government opposition

Many think that teaching sex education in schools is equal to teaching sexual intercourse education. In fact, sex education is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction and other aspects of human sexual behavior.

2. Lack of skilled teachers

Though teachers express commitment to teaching sex education in schools, some find it difficult and discomforting to teach sex education topics.

What are the benefits of providing a comprehensive sexuality education?

1. Prevention of HIV and STD’s

Comprehensive sex education is an essential part of HIV prevention. It is proved to be more effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections than education that focuses solely on teaching abstinence until marriage.1

2. Prevention of unintended pregnancies

Where teenage pregnancy can get in the way of education and other life opportunities, sex education can mitigate unintended pregnancy. Sex education programs have been proven effective at delaying first intercourse and increasing use of contraception among sexually active youth.

3. Empowerment against sexual violence

Sex education helps teenagers understand themselves biologically and prepare to face the world so that they do not fall victim to sexual predators. It also empowers girls and boys to speak up if their sexual boundaries are violated.

It has long been recognized that countries that have a more open and positive attitude toward sexuality have better sexual health outcomes.

Sexuality education exposes young boys and girls to material that not only reduces their risk of unplanned pregnancy and disease, but also enlightens and empowers them.

To curb high adolescent pregnancy rates, governments can enforce policies that protect and promote women’s and girls’ rights, including the right to comprehensive sexual education in schools.

Email your government, asking them to support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women in the new development agenda.  

1. Abstinence-only interventions promote delaying sex until marriage with little to no information provided about contraceptives or condom use, whereas comprehensive sexual education provides information on abstinence as well as information on how to engage in safer sex and prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

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Anna Serenko