The Human Right to Information on Sexual and Reproductive Health: Government Duties to Ensure Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Programme Reports & Evaluations
Center for Reproductive Rights
19 p.

The CEDAW Committee, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have commented on the right to sexuality education and have generally framed it in the context of ensuring the right to health. All four have criticized states parties for not ensuring access to sexuality education. The CEDAW Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in particular, have often discussed sexuality education as a means to reduce maternal mortality, rates of abortion, adolescent pregnancies, and HIV/AIDS prevalence. While not all committees, in their concluding observations, have included specific measures on how to improve sexuality education, the CEDAW Committee has led the way in making concrete suggestions for incorporating a gender dimension into sexuality education curricula. This briefing paper takes an in-depth look at the standards developed by six UN “treaty monitoring bodies,” or committees, in the area of sexuality education. Following a brief overview of the origin and work of the committees, the briefing paper reviews standards each body has adopted as it has monitored governments’ compliance with their duties under international human rights law. The committees’ repeated calls to ensure access to information on sexual and reproductive health reflect international recognition that sexuality education is a key component of women’s right to protect their health and plan their families.

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