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Sexuality education and information

Comprehensive sexuality education provides information about sex and sexuality, guidance for young people on self-esteem and physical and emotional wellbeing as they grow up and start to form healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships.

Next theme Contraception and safe abortion

Supporting young people’s sexual development

Comprehensive sexuality education empowers children and young people to form positive attitudes about identity, relationships and intimacy and equips them with skills to communicate and make their own decisions on sexuality and sexual health. It helps them understand and enjoy their sexuality, take responsibility for their own sexual and reproductive health and rights and respect other people’s.

Children and young people are supported and protected in their sexual development, helping them to be critical towards misleading information – much of it online – and contradicting messages on sexuality and relationships.

Differences in sexuality education

Sexuality education differs across countries and programmes. While it is generally well-supported globally, delivery can be poor and patchy. In most countries, sexuality education is delivered at school as part of broader subjects. It can be viewed narrowly or strongly focussed on sexual health, biology, anatomy, reproduction, birth control and disease prevention. Gender norms, sexual diversity, sexual coercion and sexual pleasure are covered much less.

In more restrictive environments, some delicate topics are excluded, ignored or underemphasised. Young people don’t get enough support to discover their own gender and sex identity or make their own minds up in a safe learning space.

In some countries, national policies on sexuality education have become more conservative in recent years with strong opposition from religious groups, political parties and parent groups.

Unfounded allegations about the risks and appropriateness of sexuality education are made. Some schools and organisations refuse to provide it."

Ideas on the age at which sexuality education should start also vary. Most countries start between 12 or 14 years old or older. But in some Western European countries, including the Netherlands, age-appropriate sexuality education starts at ages 4 to 5.

What we do on sexuality education

Rutgers sees sexuality education as a lifelong learning process. We believe young people need it to inform choices in relationships and their sexual lives which are free from stigma, discrimination and violence. We are international thought leaders on comprehensive sexuality education, working in more than 20 countries with a diverse group of partners.

Rutgers embraces more positive approaches and less restrictive definitions and perspectives of sexuality, sexual orientation and preferences and gender."

We believe sexuality education should be for all young people and also cover gender, puberty, consent and sexual and reproductive health. Our work is based on evidence from our own research and tailored to the needs of young people. Rutgers works with experts, our partners and young people to establish and strengthen sexuality education and push for laws, policies and regulations that guarantee access for all.

We develop tools and materials to make it easier to deliver high quality sexuality education in different settings, including countries where sexuality is a taboo subject. These tools cater for the needs of young people of different ages and abilities and from different backgrounds and can be used at home, school, in youth groups and young offenders’ institutions.

We provide gender-, age- and culturally-appropriate, accurate comprehensive sexuality education from a young age and through life that enables people to build relationships, enjoy sexuality and make well-informed choices on sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.

Our work in schools

Rutgers embeds sexuality education principles in curricula, programmes outside of school and online tools for young people and gives special attention to groups like out of school children, children with disabilities, refugees and migrants.

In the Netherlands, where sexuality education is part of the compulsory curriculum, our resources are used in primary and secondary schools. We address the needs of the pupils of special schools or in vocational education and also provide teacher training on sexuality education.

How sexuality education changed lives

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