UNDERSTANDING THE OUTCRY AGAINST COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN GHANA
For some days now, family campaigners, religious groups and ordinary Ghanaians have raised an outcry in the media about the Government of Ghana’s Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) policy document. One news outlet ran the story ‘Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Education Minister lied to us — Catholic Bishops cry out’. There are others like that. Much of the discourse contains misinformation that this post will seek to address such as: What is CSE? What does it entail? Has it been implemented elsewhere? Where does it come from? These are a few of the questions this post will attempt to address, however in a very succinct form due to a lack of space for a topic like this.
There is no generally accepted definition but one proffered by Family Watch International, a nonprofit organization bearing a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations is this: “CSE is a highly controversial,―rights-based approach to sex education that encompasses a great deal more than just teaching children and youth about sexual intercourse and human reproduction. Developed in the West, primarily in the United States, CSE is now being implemented in most countries around the world. Comprehensive sexuality education programs seek to change society by changing sexual and gender norms and teaching youth to advocate for their sexual rights. Most CSE programs promote acceptance of diverse sexual identities and orientations and enlist youth in combatting “homophobia” and “heterosexism”. These CSE programs have an almost obsessive focus on sexual pleasure, instructing children and youth at the earliest ages on how to obtain sexual pleasure in a variety of ways. Some programs even encourage sexual exploration for children as young as age five. Planned Parenthood, one of the largest purveyors of sexuality education in the United States, explains on their website that sexuality education addresses “values exploration,” “safer sex,” “sexual attitudes and values,” “sexual orientation,” and “sexual pleasure.”
NOT LIMITED TO GHANA — GLOBAL IN DIMENSION
Interestingly, this problem where the general public is kicking against a Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) policy program is not limited to Ghana. A simple internet search will show citizens all around the world including in the UK, USA, Canada, Namibia are protesting CSE implementation in their educational systems. The United Nations through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other organizations are the tip of the spear pushing governments to implement these ‘comprehensive’ sexuality education policies but the hands that moved the spear include but are not limited to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). How does SIECUS promote CSE internationally today? UNESCO works in partnership with SIECUS. A former director of SIECUS is one of the principle authors of its International Guidelines on Sexuality Education.
There are some in the Ghanaian media who suggested that this policy emanated originally and solely from the Ghana Education Service. This is ludicrous. It’s a global agenda aimed at globalizing Sexuality Education. This global agenda has been carefully deployed from the international sphere to local levels. The logos on the Ghana document page (ii) refute the claim of those making such an argument. One wonders if the government gained anything in exchange for adopting these guidelines. UNESCO, in collaboration with other UN agencies — including UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are the ones who originally published the “International Guidelines on Sexuality Education, first released in 2009 in draft form. Ghana’s CSE policy is simply an offshoot of this main policy. After a huge public outcry at the inappropriate and graphic nature of the Guidelines, UNESCO revised them, removing some of the most explicit language and has now published a somewhat less controversial version”. The outcry has been ongoing since 2009 when the first draft was released. But governments refuse to listen.
The Dailymail UK published an article on 23 September 2019, titled ‘Children as young as SIX are to be given compulsory self-touching lessons that critics say are sexualising youngsters’. The article states, “Some parents believe the lessons — part of a controversial new sex and relationships teaching programme called All About Me — are ‘sexualising’ their young children. All About Me is being rolled out across 241 primaries by Warwickshire County Council and could be adopted by other local authorities next year as part of the Government’s overhaul of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE)”.
What is the RSE? It is the UK’s version of Ghana’s CSE. The BBC also carried a story on 12 July 2018 titled, “Canada province cancels new sex-ed curriculum after protests”. The Namibian, a newspaper also carried the story “Churches frown on sex education”. In this paper, “The Council of Churches in Namibia and some parents have called for the removal of the comprehensive sexuality education from the school curriculum due to what they term immorality. Revised in 2013, the comprehensive sex education (CSE) course is part of the life skills subject, and meant to give pupils in Grade 4 to Grade 12 the skills and values to make appropriate and healthy choices in their sexual lives.”. In California protested the CSE guidelines.
COMMON COMPONENTS OF COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION PROGRAMS
- Promote masturbation as healthy and normal
- Encourage acceptance and exploration of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities
- Promote condoms as “safe” without disclosing failure rates
- Promote abortion as safe and without consequences
- Encourage youth to advocate for sexual rights
- Teach youth without parental knowledge or consent under the guise of “confidentiality” or “privacy rights”
- Promote sexual pleasure as a right and an important component of sexual health
- Claim access to “comprehensive sexuality education” is a human right
- Teach children and youth they are sexual from birth
- Encourage anal and oral sex
- Encourage “peer to peer sexuality education
In the current debate of CSE in the Ghana media, government spokespersons say that the content is none of the above. Makes me wonder how naïve they are. The UK never started with Children as young as six being taught about touching or ‘stimulating’ their own genitals in class. It is a progressive strategy plus these are just guidelines and not the actual content. Initially in the UK, “Family campaigners and religious groups warned that vague guidelines issued by the Department for Education meant schools could soon be providing sexual material to young children that many parents would consider inappropriate.” The prophecy has been fulfilled and even politicians who were for it have expressed concern. It would be wise for Ghana to learn from others who have already gone this way in adopting the positives and discarding the negatives. Ghana’s CSE program is derived from the International Guidelines on Sexuality Education which is broader and more unclad than the vague guidelines in the Ghana document. But that is where it takes its cue from.
CONTENT OF INTERNATIONAL CSE
The following is an excerpt from Family Watch International:
“One of the most dangerous concepts promoted by the Guidelines is that sexual behaviors can be pleasurable and without risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Statements such as, “Contraceptives and condoms give people the opportunity to enjoy their sexuality without unintended consequences,” give youth a false sense of security by failing to disclose the fact that condoms have high failure rates especially when used by youth.
Much of the document promotes “respect” for “sexual and gender diversity” and “people with diverse sexual expressions,” and it encourages ministries of education to “consult with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups” as programs are developed. Under the definition for “sexual orientation” this example is listed: “a man who becomes a woman and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.” The Guidelines undermine parental rights and state that “teachers are likely to be the most skilled and trusted source of information” and “have a responsibility to act in the place of parents.” These Guidelines ultimately would increase in youth the very negative consequences of sexual behavior that they claim to prevent. So, as defined by UNESCO, comprehensive sexuality education is very dangerous indeed.
One of the learning objectives [of sexuality education] is to “change social norms”.
UNESCO‘s most recent version of their comprehensive sexuality education guidelines that was produced after the huge public outcry regarding their first version also includes a title change: International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. Although the most offensive parts of the original publication have been toned down, there is still some disturbing material.
By its own description the “companion document (Volume II) presents a ‘basic minimum package’ of topics and learning objectives for a sexuality education programme for children and young people from 5 to 18+ years of age and includes a bibliography of useful resources.” (Vol. II p. 3). This latest UNESCO publication openly states that some of the learning objectives “will attempt to change social norms,” and are designed to “remove social and attitudinal barriers to sexuality education.” (Vol. II p. 3).
In this new version, parents are still considered an obstacle to sexuality education: “Many young people approach adulthood faced with conflicting and confusing messages about sexuality and gender. This is often exacerbated by embarrassment, silence and disapproval of open discussion of sexual matters by adults, including parents and teachers, at the very time when it is most needed” (Vol. II p. 2).
Cultural and religious values also are still viewed as an impediment: “Effective sexuality education is important because of the impact of cultural values and religious beliefs on all individuals, and especially on young people, in their understanding of this issue and in managing relationships with their parents, teachers, other adults and their communities” (Vol. II p. 2).
LEARNING OBJECTIVES OF CSE GUIDELINES
There are many objectives for ages 5–8, 9–12, and 12–15 but let us take a look at the 9–12 for lack of time. As stated by Family Watch International, “These original Guidelines were intended to drive sex education programs taught to children in schools worldwide. The Guidelines maintained that children have a right to receive instruction in sexual pleasure, masturbation and homosexuality, among other things.
The following are excerpts from some of the “Learning Objectives” from the original Guidelines:
LEARNING OBJECTIVES FOR LEVEL I (AGES 5–8)
- Girls and boys have private body parts that can feel pleasurable when touched by oneself. (p. 43)
- It is natural to explore and touch parts of one‘s own body. (p. 48)
- Bodies can feel good when touched. (p. 48)
- Touching and rubbing one‘s genitals is called masturbation. (p. 48)
- Masturbation is not harmful, but should be done in private. (p. 48)
- People receive messages about sex, gender, and sexuality from their cultures and religions. (p. 39)”
THE END OF THE MATTER
The Ghana government should count the cost of implementing such a policy — bearing in mind the consequences in other countries. Personally, I do not see the benefits of such a policy in its present form as derived from the UN, in the long run. If the argument is to reduce AIDs prevalence, abstinence is the best route as proven in Uganda. If the government has bought the lie that CSE is a human rights issue, that’s simply not true. Consider the following:
“The Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education was submitted to the General Assembly on July 23, 2010. In it, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Vernon Muñoz, rather than focus on the legitimate educational needs of the world’s children, centered entirely on what he called the “issue of the human right to comprehensive sexual education” for children, which he incorrectly asserts is “grounded in human dignity and in international human rights law.”
The promotion of sexual rights is prominent in the Special Rapporteur‘s report; however, his positions are supported primarily by citing the comments and recommendations of human rights treaty bodies, the works of nongovernmental organizations, and on personal interpretation, rather than the global consensus of binding human rights instruments. The misuse of such documents in his official capacity and, in fact, much of the report itself, constitutes a violation of the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council articles 3(a), 6(a), 6(c), 7, and 8(c).
I will not attempt to conjecture the reason for the adoption of CSE by the Ghana government but teaching children about sex at such a young age WILL ultimately end Ghana where the stated objectives of UN’s International sexuality education programs plan to land nations, which is to:
- change cultural and religious values
- change society by changing social norms
- remove social and attitudinal barriers to sexuality education
Why do the main authors seek to change cultural, religious and societal values? SIECUS one of whose Directors helped in authoring the International CSE Guidelines, “was founded by Dr. Mary Calderone, the former medical director of Planned Parenthood, with seed money from Hugh Hefner, the man who founded Playboy magazine. … Mary believed there was an urgent need to break from traditional views of sexuality. Sex-ed had too much negativity — too much focus on unwanted pregnancy and diseases. The real problem, she insisted, was that society is puritanical and repressed. There were too many ”no‘s” in sex-ed”. Changing these norms all over the world will lead to a one world standard for sex ed (a globalization of sex-ed) — hence using the UN as the tool to internationalize CSE.
The idea of CSE in itself is not a bad idea. What makes the strain from the UN dangerous is the stated intent. If Ghana is to reform it socio-cultural values, Ghana should be in the driving seat and have a say in what is to be changed. A one-size-fits-all approach that disregards cultural and societal values is not the best approach. Countries must have a say in how they reform or reshape their societies and individual differences should be celebrated not castigated. If Ghana thinks CSE is the way to go, go ahead but don’t swallow some instructions and guidelines from the UN and other organizations hook, line and sinker. Adapt it to your context while respecting the age old cultural and religious values unique to the country. The government may have spared itself the grief it is getting from society if it had simply done better stakeholder consultation or sought views via townhall meetings. They did not because they know that this nation does not accept such values as espoused by SIECUS, IPPF and what is written in the International Guidelines. In any case, there are more pressing issues the government could tackle for its citizens.
 Planned Parenthood website: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/resources/implementing-sex-education-23516.htm#Accurate. Accessed on January 19, 2012
UPDATE October 1, 2019
MISINFORMATION ABOUT CSE
Yesterday (September 30, 2019), there was public outrage at portions of a document purported to be the manual to be used for the controversial Comprehensive Sexuality Education(CSE) curriculum in Ghanaian schools. The document titled ‘KnowitOwnitLiveit: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Manual’ showed content the Ghanaian public deemed inappropriate for training children.
A consultant to the CSE program took to the airwaves and denied knowledge of this ‘KnowitOwnitLiveit: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Manual’ developed by and for the ECOWAS CEDERD region. This was an outright lie because on page 5 (1) (iv) and (v) of the 2018 Ghana FP2020 Commitment Self Reporting Questionnaire, it states clearly that:
(iv) A civil society led and developed content “KnowItOwnItLiveIt” CSE manual has been adopted together with a GES source book for teachers on CSE as the content guides to drive the implementation of CSE.
(v) The guideline and the manuals have been submitted to the Minister of Education and the Ghana Education service for verification and adoption.
Interestingly, the cover page of the manual has the PPAG Ghana — one of the backers — logo on the cover page.
And by the way, why is the main hand behind this push internationally the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and locally the National Population Council. Here’s a direct quote from the 2018 Ghana FP2020 Commitment Self Reporting Questionnaire 2018, “(i)Currently, the National Population Council has led a process to develop a national guideline for the delivery of CSE in Ghana. (ii) The national guideline defines clearly age appropriate content that should be delivered at the various stages of education and is based on UNFAP, UNESCO and IPPF standards”. What has population to do with CSE? Just asking? Is there anything the government is not saying about the true aim of this rollout and policy?