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Guidelines and Activities for a unified approach to sexuality, gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education

Publication Date: 
November, 2010

It's All One Curriculum, was developed by an international working group comprised of CREA (India), Girl's Power Initiative (Nigeria), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region, International Women's Health Coalition, Mexfam (Mexico), and the Population Council.  

Why it's needed

The global community has prioritized the fight against AIDS. Most governments have also signed international agreements honoring the principles of gender equality and of human rights. But how are these linked? Why are gender equality and human rights crucial for achieving sexual health and well-being?

The fact is that gender norms profoundly affect young people’s ability to make and implement decisions regarding their own sexual lives. For example, the unforgiveable reality is that sex, marriage, and pregnancy remain neither voluntary nor informed for tens of millions of girls. Boys, too, often experience intense pressures to live up to unrealistic and harmful expectations of manhood.

The consequences are real. Studies from both developing and developed countries confirm that young people who believe in gender equality have better sexual health outcomes than their peers. In contrast, those young people who hold less egalitarian attitudes tend to have worse sexual health outcomes. For example, young people who believe that males should be "tough" and should hold more power than females are less likely to use condoms or contraception and more likely to have multiple sex partners. They are also more likely to be in intimate relationships that involve violence. Females in relationships with a high level of male control are also more likely to report HIV and unintended pregnancy. Similarly reflecting this constellation of gender inequality and poor sexual health are studies showing that intimate partner violence is associated with higher rates of unintended pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. These findings make clear that young people need chances to learn about gender equality and human rights, particularly because these issues affect their sexual lives, and indeed, their happiness.

Unfortunately, sex education programs have lagged in applying these findings. Few sex education curricula address issues of gender and rights in a meaningful way. This deficiency is particularly worrisome because few sex or HIV curricula have demonstrated a statistically significant impact either on unintended pregnancy or on sexually transmitted infections.

The lesson—which we ignore at adolescents' peril—is that gender equality and human rights are not just lofty goals. Rather, they are key to preventing the spread of HIV and to enabling young people to grow up to enjoy good health, as well as responsible and satisfying sexual lives. Indeed, it is in response to such research findings, and as a matter of human dignity, that the global community—governments, civil society, and international agencies—is increasingly asking for sexuality and HIV education that addresses issues of gender and human rights.

Today's educators need resources for presenting these concepts in meaningful and effective ways. Happily, there are groundbreaking new sexuality and HIV education programs around the world that are paying greater attention to gender equality and to human rights. What is compelling is that such approaches are now showing exciting results; it is high time to implement and test such approaches more widely.

(from pages 4–5 of It's All One Curriculum: Guidelines)

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