The World Youth Alliance has published an article in The New Bioethics affirming that there is no right to comprehensive sex education (CSE) in international law. Claiming Comprehensive Sex Education is a Right Does Not Make It So: A Close Reading of International Law, authored by WYA Advocacy Fellow Melissa Curvino and WYA Research and Policy Specialist Meghan Grizzle Fischer, tackles the popular claim at the United Nations that States must provide CSE programs to adolescents in order to meet their obligations under international human rights treaties.
The assertion of a right to comprehensive sex education is erroneous and misleading. International human rights are created in two ways: by treaty and by custom. The article closely examines major international human rights treaties and shows they do not mention comprehensive sex education, or any other form of sex education or training. It also shows that there is no custom on sex education, as evidenced by the lack of universal agreement in international consensus documents and other declarations of political will. Because neither treaty nor custom creates a right to comprehensive sex education, no such right exists.
The pressure on States by non-governmental organizations and treaty-monitoring bodies to provide CSE has significant implications. As defined by Planned Parenthood, CSE “provides medically accurate information about . . . masturbation and other sexual behaviors; options for unintended pregnancy: raising a child, placing a child for adoption, abortion; . . . sexual identity; [and] sexual orientation.” CSE encourages adolescents to experiment with their sexuality and ignores the rights, duties, and responsibilities of parents in the education of their children. If States are led to believe that they are required to provide CSE, they end up disregarding the values of their people and violating the rights of parents.
The article serves the critical role of showing States what their obligations on sex education actually are, allowing them to respond to unjustifiable claims. As such, WYA will use this article to influence policymaking on sex education at the United Nations and regional institutions, as well as sex education program implementation around the world.
A pre-print, working copy of the published article, an executive summary, and a fact sheet are available at www.wya.net/sexualeducation. Track A-trained members of the World Youth Alliance may request a copy of the published article by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The article joins WYA’s compendium of white papers on international law and policy topics, available at www.wya.net/research.