Based on presentation delivered at the Advocacy for Comprehensive Sexuality Education meeting, October 2015, Washington D.C.
Asia and the Pacific is a vast region with a young population – as of 2012, more than 60 per cent of young people in the world were living in this region.8 Its remarkable diversity presents enormous challenges to CSE advocacy: the region includes two of the most populous countries in the world, as well as small-island developing states, it has an extraordinary number of languages, and there are democratic as well as, increasingly, authoritarian regimes.
Unlike other regions, there is less resistance to CSE’s promotion and acceptance of LGBT people and realization of their human rights. However, there is general discomfort around talking about sex, and strong cultural views that this is the family’s role and that sexuality education has less of a place in schools.
Due to decentralization of education systems, most advocacy efforts are undertaken at the sub-national level. Civil society partners have been essential and effective in CSE advocacy. Thailand has one of the strongest CSE programmes, which was developed by an NGO and funded by the Global Fund. There are also strong youth networks working on HIV, though it has been challenging to collaborate with young advocates on SRHR issues more broadly.
CSE advocates have had success working with regional economic communities. Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for example, inroads for advancing CSE were made by focusing first on parents and then on adolescents. In two achievements, albeit with caveats, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation accepted language on CSE adjusted to cultural sensitivities, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific agreed to strong language on CSE at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Regional Review Conference, with a qualifier about the role and responsibility of parents.
Partnerships with civil society organizations have been crucial in making connections between CSE and safe and secure learning environments, tackling school-related gender-based violence, eliminating homophobic bullying, heteronormativity and institutional discrimination.