We live in a society that condemns sex and sexuality as immoral. Because of this, not many are candidly taught about sexuality from an affirming, empowering and non-biased perspective hence the profound misinformation towards Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).
United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) defines CSE as a rights-based and gender-focused approach to sexuality education, whether in or out of school, taught over several years, providing age-appropriate information consistent with evolving capacities of youth. It includes scientifically accurate information of human development, anatomy, reproductive health, contraception, childbirth and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
From this description, it is clear CSE is not, as some wrongly believe, a programme initiating youth into randy behaviour. Rather, it offers adequate age-appropriate knowledge aiding informed choices. This is presently needed in Kenya at a time when teen pregnancies, STIs and rape are on the rise.
A Unesco study asserts that CSE programmes don’t increase sexual activity. In fact, it’s confirmed that most programmes reduce misinformation and increase correct knowledge by clarifying values and reinforcing positive attitudes. Specifically, it was found that programmes delayed initiation of sexual intercourse by 37 per cent, reduced frequency of sex by 31 per cent, reduced number of sexual partners by 44 per cent and increased use of condoms/contraception by 40 per cent.
For instance, countries like Netherlands made CSE mandatory since 1993, with 97 per cent of secondary and 50 per cent of primary schools including sexuality information in their curriculum by incorporating it within existing subjects such as Biology. This equips students with a capacity to identify safe and unsafe sexual practices with significant gains including teen pregnancies dropping by up to 85 per cent.
UNFP noted that in Argentina, the law affirms the right of young people to learn about sexuality, obliging the state to ensure sexuality education is taught in every school — public or private — from kindergarten to high school. The content of sexuality education covers not only biological dimensions but also addresses gender and human rights.
Kenya needs to rethink its strategies as old approaches of not proactively engaging in sexuality education have direct consequences on young people’s lives. We must not forget to train those in charge of teaching CSE as was done in Bulgaria where they fostered strategic approaches that stressed the importance of investing in training that is empowering. This helps those teaching to explore and clarify their own attitudes, values and concerns about sexuality, gender and sexual health rights.
Conservative societies can follow what Northern States of Nigeria did by changing the name of their CSE Programme to Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) which enabled acceptance.
UNFP further proposes analysing relevant social norms, applying pedagogical theories and targeting schools at an early age through adolescence. We must also build safe spaces for teachers and learners of CSE to engage without being judged and find new ways to reach those out-of-school. Many young people’s lives are at risk and burying our heads in the sand won't help.
The writer is a policy analyst; [email protected]