This article explores the scope of a rights-based approach to sexuality education. Presenting findings from in-depth interviews of U.S. and international sexuality education experts, the article defines this framework as encompassing four elements:
(1) a guiding principle that youth hold inalienable sexual rights;
(2) an expansion of programmatic goals beyond reducing unintended pregnancy and STDs;
(3) a broadening of curricula content to include issues such as gender norms, sexual orientation, sexual expression and pleasure, violence, and individual rights and responsibilities in relationships; and
(4) a participatory teaching strategy that engages youth in critical thinking about their sexuality and sexual choices.
The rights-based approach represents a shift away from the concept of “sex education”—and its narrow focus on avoiding negative sexual health outcomes—to a broader “sexuality education,” with a positive, holistic emphasis on healthy sexual development and youth empowerment.