Dispatches From CPD 2012: Let’s Talk About Sex!

Dave is a volunteer youth delegate to the Commission on Population and Development, working with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.

As the negotiations at the 45th Commission on Population and Development (CPD) continue at the United Nations in New York City, the work towards establishing a strong outcome document that ensures young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) becomes even more intense.

Most of the language and priorities of the outcome document are decided within the negotiating room, but there are many other meetings and events going on throughout each day. These meetings are attended by delegates from civil society organisations as well as delegates from different countries who use these events to help inform their stance during discussions. This afternoon I attended a side event which was entitled ‘Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices’ which was hosted at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations.

At this event a variety of speakers talked about their experience of working in the field of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). A comprehensive curriculum ensures that young people are provided with information related not just to sex but also to relationships (both intimate and not) and broader life-skills that enable young people to exercise their rights and make choices as they transition into adulthood. This information is always age-appropriate and the level of detail and the intensity of discussion will evolve as young people develop.

Opponents of CSE may argue that organisations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are teaching five-year-olds how to masturbate or that abstinence-only education is the most effective way to minimize new sexually-transmitted infections or reduce the levels of teenage pregnancy. These are just a few examples of what are numerous criticisms, all of which can easily be disregarded when one consults the extensive literature and research on such a topic. No robust set of studies has shown an advantage of abstinence-only education over CSE and if you can find an educational resource that teaches five-year-olds to masturbate then you’d be the first to do so.

Given these discussions in fancy buildings of New York City, the policies and declarations at the UN can sometimes seem rather distant and isolated from the real world. Therefore, when one takes all of this information into account it’s useful to reflect upon the situation back at home. In the United Kingdom there appears to be constant discussion about sex education and what this should and should not include, as well as who should be the recipient of such education. Most recently, conservative politicians have pushed for an emphasis on abstinence education for girls alone. Given that abstinence-only education has not been proven to be effective by public health professionals, and that males need to be involved in these discussions that often involve issues concerning them, an appreciation of the robust evidence-base in favour of a human rights based approach to CSE is essential to ensure young people receive information pertinent to their lives. 

For more information on CSE please see the IPPF website

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