Americas: Guaranteeing the right to comprehensive sexuality education saves lives

Amnesty International and other civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean are launching the ESIgualdad campaign today to link up efforts to make the right of children and adolescents to comprehensive sexuality education a reality.

“Today we are joining with organizations throughout the region with a simple message for states in Latin America and the Caribbean: the time has come for you to stop turning your backs on the demands for sexuality education that is comprehensive, secular, scientific and gender-focused,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Under the slogan #DeseoSeaDerecho, the campaign calls on states to significantly speed up fulfilling their obligation to ensure universal comprehensive sexuality education. It is a key tool in preventing sexual abuse and has the potential to save the lives of children and adolescents by helping them seek and receive help promptly; as well as ensuring the enjoyment of other human rights.

Today we are joining with organizations throughout the region with a simple message for states in Latin America and the Caribbean: the time has come for you to stop turning your backs on the demands for sexuality education that is comprehensive, secular, scientific and gender-focused

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The campaign also aims to address the alarming increase in attacks and misinformation regarding policies and laws that seek to address gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights in public education, which are spearheaded by groups with an anti-human rights agenda that spread misinformation, distortions and lies that create a lot of fear among young people and their families and put rights at risk.

The situation in the region regarding the fulfilment of the right to comprehensive sexual education looks bleak. In some countries, there is no institutional backing for comprehensive sexuality education, effectively making its implementation impossible. For example, in Paraguay, under pressure from groups opposed to gender equality and human rights, the Ministry of Education issued a resolution in 2017 banning all gender-related education materials from the public education system. This resolution remains in force to date.

Similar initiatives have also moved forward in other countries have. In Guatemala, Bill 5272, which would ban private and public educational institutions from implementing policies and programmes on comprehensive sexuality education, passed its second reading in Congress in 2018.

Positive steps to make progress in this area have also been stalled by opposition groups. In the Dominican Republic, there was a strong backlash against a departmental order issued by the Ministry of Education in 2019 for the development of a policy on gender equality. To date, the Ministry still has no policy on the issue.

Even in countries that have laws or public policies that support the right to comprehensive sexuality education, there are serious shortcomings in their effective implementation. In Argentina, for example, where by law comprehensive sexuality education has been mandatory since 2006, studies by the Ministry of Education have revealed that many students still do not receive any comprehensive sexuality education, and for the majority of students who have received sex education in some form, it has been incomplete, not sustained and fragmented.

Comprehensive sexuality education is a fundamental tool for the defence of human rights. There is strong evidence that it can contribute substantially to addressing a wide range of structural problems that have plagued our societies for decades

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

These failings are taking place in a region beset by high rates of gender inequality; violence against women, girls and LGBTI people; unwanted and forced early pregnancy; and other violations of sexual and reproductive rights. Comprehensive sexuality education seeks to tackle all these issues.

“Comprehensive sexuality education is a fundamental tool for the defence of human rights. There is strong evidence that it can contribute substantially to addressing a wide range of structural problems that have plagued our societies for decades, from gender-based violence and inequality to problems related to sexual and reproductive health. It is also key to ensuring that children and adolescents can develop their life projects in equality and make free and informed decisions. But states in the region are still not giving enough priority to the issue. This has to change,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Currently, more than 50 organizations working on various issues – including human rights, sexual and reproductive rights, education, health, children’s rights and LGBTI+ rights – in nine countries are part of the ESIgualdad campaign.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: [email protected]