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Not by CSE alone…

Reflections on international cooperation in sex education

Recently in Sex Education authors have raised concern with regards to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in resource-poor countries as part of Western European development aid policy. It has been argued that the agency-focused and rights-based nature of ‘northern’ sexuality education puts too much responsibility on young people’s shoulders and disregards their insecurity and shame, as well as local culture more generally. By promoting a rights-based approach to CSE in countries in the South, European development organisations would risk being insensitive to local collective concerns, networks, sensitivities and affects, not least those based in religion. In addition to concerns related to CSE content, concern has been expressed about the unequal relationships between stakeholders from the global north versus the global south in the shaping of youth sexuality education. The issues raised are important and call for further elaboration and discussion, which is what we intend to initiate here. The viewpoints we present relate, among others, to the balance between structure and agency focused perspectives in CSE; the multiplicity of needs with regard to sexual agency; the precariousness of international partnerships; ongoing national and international controversies over sexual rights; and the absolute necessity for multicomponent approaches and careful community building as part of CSE implementation and scale-up.