Relationships and sexuality education

 

Overview

The focus of this teacher support website is developing social and emotional health and literacy to engage in respectful relationships. It aims to empower young people with the knowledge, attitudes and skills to make informed decisions about their relationships and sexual health. 

This resource is based on the World Health Organization's definitions of:

Sexuality

'A central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, sensuality, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practises, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical and religious and spiritual factors'.1

Sexual health

'A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled'.1

Sexual rights

The following rights are critical to the realisation of sexual health.

The right/s to:

  • equality and non-discrimination

  • be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment

  • privacy

  • the highest attainable standard of health and social security

  • marry and to found a family and enter into a marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage

  • decide the number and spacing of one's children

  • information, as well as education

  • freedom of opinion an expression

  • an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others. 1

Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical and religious and spiritual factors.

Relationships and sexuality education in schools

Relationships and sexuality education (RSE) is primarily the responsibility of children's parents and caregivers. It is important, however, that school-based policies, guidelines and programs also support young people to make positive choices about their relationships and sexual health. Discrimination is are also a key issue for schools to address.

This website sets out to help teachers implement a successful RSE program. The following diagram maps out the relationships and sexuality framework for GDHR. The components of this RSE wheel are a visual adaptation of the WHO definitions and the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.2

Relationships and sexuality education framework for GDHR

 

Comprehensive RSE diagram downloadable pdf

 

Comprehensive RSE programs have been found to:

  • increase adolescents' confidence and ability to make informed decisions

  • encourage respect, acceptance, equality and empathy

  • often delays the onset of sexual activity

  • helps young people to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate information online

  • help prevent sexual abuse

  • increase the use of contraceptives in those adolescents who have decided to be sexually active

  • prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections amongst young people

  • provide additional opportunities for young people to learn about and discuss relationships and sexual health issues outside their homes

  • to be strongly supported by most parents.2

References

  1. World Health Organization. Defining Sexual Health: Report of a Technical Consultation on Sexual Health. 28-31 January 2002. Geneva: WHO, 2006.
  2. UNESCO, International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education Paris: UNESCO, 2018