UNESCO Pushes Controversial Sex-Ed Rejected by General Assembly
NEW YORK, March 9 (C-Fam) UN staffers are making bold claims about the effectiveness of their latest efforts to initiate the world’s children to the mysteries of sex, even though their controversial sexuality education programming has been rejected by the UN General Assembly.
“Sexuality education cannot be just a one off. It has to start early and continue throughout the education cycle. It has to do with behavior, consent, how you want to have sex, and with whom,” said Christopher Castle, UNESCO Chief of Section for Health and Education, during an event at the Population Council in New York.
Castle joked about presenting the UN education agency’s updated guidelines on sexuality education to 40 UN member states the previous day. He said comprehensive sexuality education remains a “hot-button” issue for many of them, but that he was, overall, encouraged.
“In the past it was very much we who care about sexual and reproductive health and rights reacting to pushback to conservative forces. Now I am observing more balanced responses in how member states fall on this,” the UNESCO staffer said.
His pitch for comprehensive sexuality education predictably involved a mixture of arguments, some catered to socially conservative countries, others to social progressives.
He extolled the virtues of comprehensive sexuality education because “they do increase knowledge.”
“We try not just to talk about the risks of sex, and present sexuality with a positive approach,” he explained.
The UNESCO official denied it would lead to increased sexual activity and risk taking, saying this is a “common misperception.” At the same time, he admitted “there are challenges in measuring the impact of comprehensive sexuality education.” In fact, the UNESCO guidelines show less than half of sexuality education programs show any positive results in delayed sexual debut, fidelity, and correct use of condoms.
Despite the lack of evidence that comprehensive sexuality education works, Castle insisted that “programs must be implemented faithfully” and “delivered fully as intended” to get results.
Noting the increased uptake around the world, he said, “They may call it different things, family health education, life-skills education, sexual and reproductive health education. That is not important. What we do care about is the content.”
Castle seemed afraid that programming would be diluted as it is translated into different national contexts. Yet he made the case for integrating sexuality education with health programming as many of the socially progressive countries that fund UNESCO want.
“We cannot just provide knowledge without having youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services available. We are going to create demand by doing comprehensive sexuality education. So, these services have to be available,” he explained. He pointed to target 4.7 of the 2030 Agenda, on which progress will be measured through an indicator about comprehensive sexuality education.
Castle described himself as an alumnus of the Population Council, having worked there before joining UNESCO. Nicole Haberland, who works on sexuality education for the Population Council expressed her gratitude to Castle.
“Anxiety around sex runs deep and wide. It helps to point to UN documents. It persuades people that it will not lead to more and risky sex,” she said.
Castle said the UNESCO guidance is not a curriculum. He recommended the Population Council’s “It’s All One” curriculum among others. Both Castle and Haberland described the updated UNESCO guidance as an effort to align with “It’s All One.”