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Violating the Rights of the Child through Inadequate Sexual Health Education

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The focus of this research was to examine the impact of traditional sexual health education, an approach that infringes upon children's rights to information, on 15 year-olds' knowledge of birth control, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, attitudes toward gays and lesbians. One hundred and twenty grade ten students completed a survey comprising measures of sex education received, sexual activity, sexual health knowledge, attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and the teaching of homosexuality, and school-based experiences with homophobia. Our findings reinforce the inadequacy of traditional sexual health education to meet rights consistent standards. Although many of the respondents were sexually active, their knowledge of sexual health issues, and especially of homosexuality, was poor. Homophobic expression was reported to be very common in schools, and teacher interventions were few. Prejudicial attitudes toward gays and lesbians were related to experience with homophobia and to a lack of knowledge about homosexuality. In essence current practices are violating the rights of all children but particularly those of sexual minority status. Consistency with children's rights requires shifts in sex education practices and teacher attitudes and behaviors.

Affiliations: 1: Children's Rights Centre, Cape Breton University, Canada


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