Sexual health and relationships education

 

Overview

The focus of this teacher support website is healthy relationships and social and emotional health, including sexuality. This resource is based on the World Health Organization's definitions of ‘sexuality' and ‘sexual health'.

Sex refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. While these sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, they tend to differentiate humans as males and females. In general use in many languages, the term sex is often used to mean 'sexual activity', but for technical purposes in the context of sexuality and sexual health discussions, the above definition is preferred.

Sexuality is '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, 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'.1

Sexual health is '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

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.

Sexual health and relationships education in schools

Sexual health and relationships education (SRE) is primarily the responsibility of childrens' 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 in terms of gender and homophobia are also key issues for schools to address.

This website sets out to help teachers implement a successful SRE program. The following diagram maps out the relationship and sexuality framework for GDHR. The components of this sexuality wheel are a visual adaptation of the WHO definitions.

Relationships and sexuality education framework for GDHR

Relationships and sexuality framework for GDHR

Successful SRE programs have been found to:

  • increase adolescents' confidence and ability to make informed decisions

  • delay the onset of sexual activity

  • decrease the frequency of sexual intercourse

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

  • prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections among young people

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

Rationale to support SRE in schools

Australia

Guiding Principles for the Provision and Practice of Sexual Health Education, WA Department of Health
5th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health, La Trobe University

International

Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, UNESCO
Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education K-12, USA

References

  1. World Health Organization. Defining Sexual Health: Report of a Technical Consultation on Sexual Health. 28-31 January 2002. Geneva: WHO, 2006.