1.30.23 – Center for Family and Human Rights

Why Comprehensive Sexuality Education Is Not the Answer”
By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

A woman sitting at her desk with books and papers

Excerpts from this article:



For over two decades, international agencies have promoted the concept of “comprehensive sexuality education” and have sought the normative support of United Nations intergovernmental bodies, but the notion has failed to gain support from UN member states as a whole because of the controversial explicit content of these programs, as well as their challenges to parental authority and traditional sexual norms.

This Definitions [report] will explain what comprehensive sexuality education is and why it is so controversial.

(For illustrative examples of controversial elements in CSE materials, see the annex at the end.)


According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), CSE [i.e., COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION] is “a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects of sexuality.”

While it [CSE] may be delivered both in and out of school, and in formal or informal settings, it is designed to begin at an early age and progress according to a curriculum through adolescence…

Leading proponents of CSE include UNESCO, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and SIECUS, formerly known as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, all of which provide curricula or guidelines for their creation.

While CSE advocates stress that it should be “age appropriate” and “culturally sensitive,” …

First, the definition of “age-appropriateness” is often disputed, and CSE curricula have generated outrage for introducing explicit sexual concepts at extremely young ages without the involvement of parents or over their objections, including promoting moral relativism on homosexuality and transgenderism, and even encouraging children to experiment with and decide for themselves about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

…Second, advocates for parents’ rights object to efforts to make CSE mandatory… Not only do CSE proponents seek to overrule parents’ objections at the level of law and policy, they also seek to implement CSE using more stealthy means, reaching children by means of smartphones and online platforms, through youth clubs and extracurricular activities, and by training other children to act as peer CSE educators.

Third, the effectiveness of CSE is an area of dispute, in which definitions, methodologies, and the strength of evidence are all questioned, along with the central question of how success ought to be defined.

At the heart of all these debates is the sensitive nature of issues of sexuality, and the deep moral, ethical, and philosophical matters that are connected to it.

Many arguments have happened over when, how, and what children should be taught about human sexuality, but the debate is about far more than whether students should be taught about contraceptive methods or abstinence alone.

The message of CSE is that sexuality should be placed at the center of a “comprehensive” education that encompasses broader issues of relationships, communication, social activism, politics, human rights, and the nature of science.

It is, in the most literal sense, a form of indoctrination: the teaching of a doctrine or worldview that is, to many, at odds with their cultural norms, religious beliefs, and family values.

CSE positions sexuality as the central axis around which everything else revolves, including broader social changes...


In recent years, issues of gender identity and sexual orientation have risen in prominence, as have issues of race, reflecting the broader trajectory of progressive politics around the world and particularly in the United States.

Another recent trend in CSE is to emphasize the importance of sexual pleasure and use a “sex-positive” framing, as opposed to focusing on the risks and harms that sexual activity may entail.

Leading CSE proponents emphasize the importance of including abortion in CSE curricula, and one of them—IPPF—is a leading global abortion provider...

…Even in cases where teachers choose to omit or avoid abortion and other sensitive issues while delivering CSE, it remains true that CSE is designed as a mechanism to deliver this information to students, starting at a very young age, and both inside and outside the classroom.

However, CSE curricula do not stop at informing young people about abortion, including how to access it; they also encourage students to become pro-abortion activists…

In short, CSE advocates seek to subject children all over the world to mandatory instruction, woven throughout their entire education, that would turn them into activists on one side of extremely divisive social and political issues under debate at all levels of governance. If they [CSE advocates] are successful, they no doubt hope that these issues will cease to be debated at all in a generation or two.


Central to the philosophy behind CSE is the idea that people are sexual beings from birth.

In December 2022, an executive director of the U.S.-based Planned Parenthood affiliate’s sex education division generated headlines by saying “we are all sexual beings from birth until death” and calling for students to be taught “porn literacy.”

…Reporters sought clarification as to whether these comments, particularly about the sexuality of young children, reflected the position of Planned Parenthood. When the organization did not respond to queries, journalists noted that a sex ed guidance published by a Planned Parenthood chapter in the Pacific Northwest stated that “Sexuality is a part of life through all the ages and stages. Babies, elders, and everyone in between can experience sexuality.”

If babies are “experiencing sexuality,” as CSE proponents attest, then there is no point at which it would be too early to start teaching them about sex. In 2016, the World Health Organization’s [WHO] European office issued standards for sexuality education that deemed “the right to explore gender identities” appropriate for children aged 0-4 years, as well as “enjoyment and pleasure when touching one’s own body, early childhood masturbation.”

By comparison, second graders (aged 7-8) might appear to be practically adults when instructed, in accordance with standards written by SIECUS, Answer, and Advocates for Youth, to “identify different kinds of families,” including those that are “same-gender,” “define gender, gender identity, and gender-role stereotypes.” The UN agencies’ ITGSE also calls for CSE curricula to teach children aged 5-8 to “define gender and biological sex and describe how they are different” and “reflect on how they feel about their biological sex and gender.”

Among the resources cited by the ITGSE is the “Genderbread Person,” which describes itself as “[a] teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.”

One of the main messages of the “Genderbread Person” is that one’s biological sex (which it refers to as “sex assigned at birth,” with check boxes for “male,” “female,” and “intersex”) is entirely distinct from one’s gender identity, or even from one’s “anatomical sex,” which occurs on a sliding scale of “male-ness” and “female-ness.”

Previous versions (1 through 3) of the “Genderbread Person” included the phrase “biological sex,” which was omitted in the fourth and most recent version, illustrating the speed at which gender ideology is evolving…


…Given the highly controversial nature of CSE, and the fact that many of the objections to it are religious or moral in nature, efforts to make CSE compulsory are clearly at odds with the rights of parents as expressed in the UN’s foundational human rights documents.

Some UN human rights entities have moved toward promoting CSE and calling on nations to make it mandatory, including the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity…

…During the school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students participated in remote classes from home, enabling their parents to observe their curricula firsthand. Across the U.S., public school enrollment has fallen and not returned to previous levels, even as in-person schooling has resumed. One commonly cited reason for parents to choose homeschooling or private schooling instead is “the sex education and LGBTQ+ curriculum taught in school.”

The guidance acknowledges that parents “often prefer to be the source of information on sexuality,” however, “parents or guardians often lack the competencies to provide evidence-based, age-appropriate sexuality education to their children.”

the guideline on out-of-school CSE calls for “inclusive” anatomical diagrams which are not labeled as male and female and where “body parts should not be assigned to one gender.” If possible, the facilitators are encouraged to “sensitize parents about gender identity.” It frames out-of-school settings as a potential advantage, enabling CSE purveyors to “include challenging topics” and frame issues “in a way that may not always be feasible or acceptable in school settings.

…As young people are increasingly accessing the internet both at home and at school, through smartphones, tablets, and computers, CSE materials are provided through apps, streaming video services, and educational websites. According to the ITGSE [UN’S International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education] which quotes the treaty body monitoring compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, these materials, along with a wide range of services, are to be provided to adolescents confidentially and without the requirement of parental notification or permission:

All adolescents should have access to free, confidential, adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, available both online and in person, including on family planning, contraception, including emergency contraception, prevention, care and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, counselling, pre-conception care, maternal health services and menstrual hygiene.

[…] There should be no barriers to commodities, information and counselling on sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as requirements for third-party consent or authorization. In addition, particular efforts need to be made to overcome barriers of stigma and fear experienced by, for example, adolescent girls, girls with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex adolescents, in gaining access to such services.


many of the positive outcomes associated in the social science literature with CSE are actually better characterized as being linked with approaches like the abstinence-plus “ABC” approach, which promotes the message: “Abstinence, Be Faithful, Use a Condom,” in that order.

Planned Parenthood, SIECUS, or UNESCO…may contain a greater emphasis on risk avoidance and abstinence and less focus on power dynamics in relationships, deconstruction of gender as a binary, and training young people to be advocates for “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR) than programs that meet CSE advocates’ criteria.

That said, much of the evidence used to promote some form of sex education described as CSE is weak or misleading.

The Utah-based Institute for Research and Evaluation conducted a review of the evidence for CSE as taught in U.S. schools and found that “CSE has shown far more evidence of failure than success in U.S. school classrooms and has produced a concerning number of negative outcomes” including increased teen sexual activity and resulting teen pregnancy. While the findings supporting abstinence education were somewhat limited, they were seen as warranting further study.

When the same researchers applied a similar method to studies looking at outcomes of sex education in schools outside the U.S., they reached similar conclusions: “[w]hen measured by credible standards of effectiveness derived from the field of prevention research, the evidence found in UNESCO’s international database does not support the claim that school-based comprehensive sex education or CSE (sometimes called comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education) is an effective public health strategy.”

…Overall, the researchers concluded that the much-hyped successful outcomes of CSE were based on weak evidence, unsustainable results, and, likely, some degree of motivated reasoning by those conducting the evaluations.

But even according to UNESCO’s own expert review of the effectiveness of comprehensive sexuality education programs there is no evidence that it reduces the risk of STD transmission or that it has any effect on delaying sexual debut. This information is published as an appendix in the UN inter-agency manual on sexuality education.

…CSE proponents defend their curricula and evaluations as based in evidence, scientific accuracy, and objective facts, while painting their opponents as ideologically driven, religiously motivated, and unwilling to accept scientific reality.

In actuality, the fight over CSE is less about scientific findings and more about competing ideologies; issues like the morality of abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the philosophical and spiritual aspects of human sexuality cannot be determined through empirical experimentation and observation alone, as they deal in terms of “ought” rather than “is.”

What CSE proponents have successfully done is to create a pseudoscientific overlay, with corresponding definitions, around their own ideology and worldview in order to weaponize the very concept of “facts” against their ideological opponents.


Abstinence education is associated with the phrase “sexual risk avoidance,” which emphasizes the fact that sexual activity comes with risks and, especially for adolescents not ready for marriage, has no actual benefit.

Some of the risks can be reduced, but not eliminated, by the use of condoms and contraceptives, while others, like some infections transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, and the psychological and emotional consequences of sexual activity, cannot

…In addition to receiving fees for services directly from its customers, Planned Parenthood receives government subsidies for services it provides.

CSE is not only an important part of Planned Parenthood’s business model, but it provides a way to market the abortion giant’s other services to classrooms full of children, year after year. As Monica Cline, a former sex educator trained by Planned Parenthood, put it: “It’s the perfect business plan for a lifelong customer, and it’s being backed by trusted government programs for Title X and HIV prevention.”

Planned Parenthood has also begun to offer hormone treatments for patients who identify as transgender.

Their Massachusetts affiliate’s website states, “For our gender-affirming hormone services, we see patients 16 and over. For patients who are 16 and 17, we require a parent/guardian consent. If you are under 16, we can refer you to other Massachusetts providers who can give you hormonal care.” The site also advertises “surgical support letters to established patients who are seeking gender affirmation surgery.”

The SIECUS-promoted CSE standards that Planned Parenthood also links to on its sex education page states that children in grades 3-5 (aged 8-11) should be able to “Describe the role hormones play in the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional changes during adolescence and the potential role of hormone blockers on young people who identify as transgender.”

As gender confusion continues to skyrocket among young people, CSE stands ready to funnel them toward providers of powerful drugs that can irreparably damage the developing bodies of children and adolescents and start them on a path toward more extreme interventions including surgeries.


The strongest and most important opponents of the CSE agenda are parents, who are increasingly becoming informed about the extreme nature of what their children are being taught both in and out of school—particularly extreme in comparison to what the parents themselves were taught as children and adolescents.

With this new awareness comes increased advocacy, and parents around the world have engaged in demonstrations, run for school board, written letters to local media, and sought alternatives for their children, ranging from homeschooling to enrolling them in schools that teach a risk-avoidance approach to sexual activity.

This is a debate that has wide-ranging implications. Beyond the specific salacious details of CSE curricula, they promote a worldview that is on a collision course with the values, religious beliefs, and cultural norms of people all around the world, seeking to replace them with a competing set of values and priorities that does not enjoy consensus in international negotiations, much less among parents, those who are described by international consensus as having the right to determine how their children are educated.

See PDF for full citations and annex: https://c-fam.org/wp-content/uploads/Why-Comprehensive-Sexuality-Education-is-Not-the-Answer2.pdf