The journey towards comprehensive sexuality education

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Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović  

On Thursday, June 24th 2021, UNESCO together with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO, organized consultative meeting in three languages – English, Spanish and French – on subject of comprehensive sexuality education or shortened CSE. “Comprehensive sexuality education is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives. CSE can be delivered in formal or non-formal settings.” There were different panelists, three countries as an example (Sweden, Tunisia and Namibia), education videos and panel discussion about importance of comprehensive sexual education for the young people across the world.

Sexuality education in secondary schools

School-based comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) plays a vital role in promoting health and well-being of children and young people. Most of the countries across the world are trying to ensure that learners have some form of sexual education. Most of the countries are putting sexuality education in secondary school curricula. It is mostly about HIV, STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), gender-based violence or early and unintended pregnancy. Also female learners can find out more or update their knowledge about menstrual cycle. In recent years this has often developed into a more holistic subject covering a wide range of topics, taught across a number of years. UNECO published highlights on their web page, and it can be found here.

What about sexuality education in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Despite the fact that 1975’s document of WHO stated that there was a need to talk about sexuality education in schools, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in most schools, kids learn only elementary things about gender and gender related topics. It is not until high school that teachers talk much about sexuality education, if they do at all, and it revolves around religious stereotypical statements about marriage and how to behave in public or when you are alone with different sex. Some schools in 5th grade organize “only for girls” classes to teach them about monthly period cycle. They show them all types of hygienic pads, tampons, etc., and teach them about elementary hygiene issues. As a conservative society, religious ways are defining the sexual education, and in most households, parents don’t talk openly about sex or any subject related to sex, so most of kids are on they own when they need to find out more about sexuality and related topics. That is further problematic because online you can easily find anything sex related which is a big issue if you don’t have adequate sexual education. So, most of young people don’t even recognize if they are victims of sexual harassment. As a society we are deeply in inadequate position regarding sexual education and how it affects young people or all people in general and we should work to change this situation so we can have healthy, open minded children, young people and adults.