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Five Sex Education Successes in Latin America
Since the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration, “Preventing through Education” in 2008, the regional political response toward comprehensive sexuality has been favorable. Nevertheless, there have also been delays and setbacks in some countries. These gaps notwithstanding, governments have become more sensitive to young people's need for sexual and reproductive health information and services.
These are five successes we've helped to achieve in Latin American countries:
In a country, where one in five mothers is between the ages of 10 and 19, our local partner APROFAM and allies from the Mesoamerican Coalition have scaled up advocacy efforts to hold government accountable to their promise to provide young people with accurate and comprehensive information about their bodies, their health, and their rights. As a result of their efforts, in 2013 the ministries of health and education reaffirmed their commitment to work together to ensure that the goals of the Ministerial Declaration are met. Today, the Guatemalan government is implementing a comprehensive sexuality education program for young people in nine regions of the country.
In 2006, the government of Peru amended the Criminal Code with the intention to take a tough stance against the sexual abuse of minors by adults. But the law also criminalized all sexual activity among adolescents—regardless of consent—and the threat of harsh legal penalties had a negative impact on the health and well-being of youth. After civil society groups filed an unconstitutionality action, the Peruvian Constitutional Court decriminalized consensual sexual activity between adolescents in 2013. This was a big step forward in eliminating the barriers that young people face when accessing comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services.
A lack of contraceptive use among Ecuadorian youth contributes to the nearly one in five adolescent women who've had at least one pregnancy. Through coordinated advocacy efforts and with the participation of young people, our local partner CEPAM contributed to the 2012 passage of the Intercultural Education Act, a law that recognizes the right of young people to receive comprehensive sexuality education as part of the sexual and reproductive rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution. It also requires compulsory comprehensive sexuality education in all public schools and the implementation of a new national strategy on family planning that incorporates the sexual rights of adolescents and ensures access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
4) Costa Rica
In May 2012, Costa Rica adopted a national sexuality program for the first time in history. The curriculum approaches human sexuality in a comprehensive way, including lessons on human rights and gender equality, power and interpersonal communications, respect for diversity, and even pleasure. Without the technical experience and knowledge of our Member Association ADC and their allies in the Mesoamerican Coalition, which worked closely with the Ministry of Education to develop the curricula, this victory would not have happened. Although ensuring implementation of the program throughout the country will be an ongoing challenge going forward, its adoption is an important step toward meeting the real needs of Costa Rican youth.
5) El Salvador
In 2012, the government of El Salvador made the health of young people a priority when the Legislative Assembly passed the General Youth Act, recognizing and guaranteeing their right to receive comprehensive sexuality education. The General Youth Act also acknowledges the government’s responsibility to formulate policies and carry out actions to fulfill young people's right to sexual and reproductive health information. This is a success in a country where 41% of HIV-positive people are youth between 15 and 19 years old.