Comprehensive Sexuality Education to prevent intimate partner violence among adolescents and youth

Written by Mariana Cruz Marueta (IPPF/WHR), Ivon Silva Márquez (Mexfam) and Génesis Luigi (IPPF/WHR).

“My dad controls and forbids many things to my mother; he wants to control everything. But their relationship is a good one. When they fight, they only yell at each other; there’s no hitting or anything like that.”

This is what Elena shared with us during an educational session. She is Mexican, 14 years old, and like many other girls her age, she has many dreams and projects planned. Elena, Gerardo, and Julián shared that without jealousy, there is no love. 

Without jealousy, there is no love

Their testimonies show that the perception that adolescents and youth have regarding violence is based on what they experience in their contexts, where intimate partner violence is often normalized as an everyday occurrence. With this in mind, the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) activities that Mexfam facilitates aim to provide adolescents and youth with the opportunity to share their stories, deconstruct myths, and learn to identify and prevent different forms of violence.

CSE actions during childhood, adolescence, and youth are fundamental to prevent intimate partner violence. These are the ages when we first experience feelings and emotions that connect us intimately, romantically, or in a friendly way with others. Also, the social, family, school, and community contexts influence the establishment of these connections that, ideally, will develop in a healthy and respectful way. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many people.


[Photo: IPPF/WHR]

Comprehensive sexuality education: an effective strategy to prevent intimate partner violence

From 2015 to 2018, the Mexican Foundation for Family Planning (Mexfam) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), with the leadership of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), conducted a study on the impact of CSE on intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender norms. This project led to a series of findings that demonstrate how CSE programs support adolescents and youth to identify different types of violence in their relationships. The goal is to prevent violence.

A Gender Transformative Approach to CSE

Mexfam and IPPF/WHR developed and implemented a CSE class with a gender transformative approach in a public secondary school. A gender transformative approach means that throughout the training gender norms and roles and the imbalance of power between men and women were openly discussed and debated. The topics included relationships, sexuality, gender norms, and intimate partner violence. It also included information to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and the use of contraceptives. The training lasted one semester and included twenty hours; these were distributed in ten sessions of two hours each. Young educators from Mexfam facilitated the class to a group of approximately twenty students between the ages of 14 and 17.

What did we learn – exploring programme impact through research

The research included pre and post-intervention consultations, in-depth interviews with a group of participants, and a quasi-experimental longitudinal study. The latter consisted of various interviews to the same group of participants to analyze the effect of the CSE sessions over time. The results showed that CSE positively contributed to preventing intimate partner violence and to developing relationships that were more equitable and less violent among adolescents and youth.

Searching for more evidence in favor of adolescence and youth

Currently, with funds from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, the research is beginning a new stage in the analysis. It aims to understand how specific participant characteristics–gender, sexual orientation, previous experiences with violence, age, among others–can affect how information on intimate partner violence is assimilated and how one looks to prevent it. In the meantime, the group leading this project continues to disseminate the results of the first phase. In this way, they provide evidence to decision-makers, teachers, and families that motivates them to influence and support public policies and programs to prevent violence in adolescents and youth.

For this reason, at the beginning of 2020 the results of the first research will be presented to teachers and authorities of education centers. There will be a total of 13 sessions in different contexts in Mexico. These will include disseminating results and highlighting the importance of providing adolescents and youth with CSE with a rights-based and gender equality approach. This is a strategy to prevent intimate partner violence among adolescents and youth. Currently, the operative team is completing an educational material called “Manual for strengthening the successful implementation of CSE”, whose objective is to provide tools and routes of action for CSE facilitators, in situations of violence detected at the time of the educational course.

CSE is essential

Without comprehensive sexuality education, adolescents and youth are at the mercy of abuse. The research team strongly believes that integrating academic rigor, social practice, and political advocacy is the best way to ensure that more adolescents and youth can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. To achieve this, decision-makers must act to ensure that CSE is available in every formal and non-formal educational institution, and that teachers and health professionals receive comprehensive training in addressing cases. Adolescents and youth–like Elena, Gerardo, and Julián–deserve the opportunity to enjoy a life free from violence, and comprehensive sexuality education is an effective strategy to achieve this.

The research team strongly believes that integrating academic rigor, social practice, and political advocacy is the best way to ensure that more adolescents and youth can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

Help us prevent violence among adolescents and young people through the CSE.
For more information about the investigation, contact Mariana Cruz Marueta at: mcruz@ippfwhr.org / Ivon Silva Marquez at: isilva@mexfam.org.mx

Also follow us on our social media! @IPPF_WHR and @MexfamAC

[Photo by IPPF/WHR]

 

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