Comprehensive Sexuality Education Critical Perspectives



10 July 2020

Ghent University – Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

A one-day seminar organised by

INSEP – International Network for Sexual Ethics and Politics
ANSER – Academic Network for Sexual and
Reproductive Health and Rights Policy

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in its broadest forms is defined by UNESCO as “a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to: realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and, understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives’. The conceptualisation of CSE has been adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO), and represents a global impetus towards sex positivity and skills building, though in reality, CSE is often mainly focused on risk management, health and reproductive imperatives. It significantly informs both the research agenda and funding for research, and the development of policy initiatives at a global and national level.

CSE is subject to much criticism. For conservative opponents, it encourages moral transgression, is too permissive where abstinence or sex within stable (married) relationships is legitimate, and therefore fails to adequate manage risks of STDs or unwanted pregnancy. Equally, for those who focus on diversity, it does not move the agenda significantly from gendered, racialised and disability insensitive sexual norms, genitocentric sex or heteronormativity (or homonormativity). It does not widen the sense that sexual diversity and experimentation, and a pleasure agenda, are the focus of CSE. There is also a concern that the political issues and debates around CSE as policy and programmes involves too much accommodation with those who resist it, can be somewhat ‘colonial’ in making western assumptions about global sexual cultures, and does not challenge wider pathologies.

This one-day seminar will explore CSE, assess its progressive impacts and its limits and problems, and so provide a critical assessment of CSE as concept, policy and programme. In particular. It will explore the following questions:

  • Does CSE provide an effective vehicle for advancing sexual positivity and supporting sexual rights and justice?
  • What is the experience of the implementation of CSE in different countries and continents?
  • How far has CSE been successful in its implementation?
  • To what extent has CSE been able to advance agendas beyond reproductive health and risk management?
  • What prospects are there for CSE as a vehicle of sexual, cultural, political and legal change?

These questions are by no means exhaustive.

Submissions and Timeline

Expressions of interest should be presented in abstracts for papers (200 words) should reach us by Friday 6 March 2020. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by Friday 13th March 2020. Those who require earlier acceptances in order to acquire funds can specify this and we will enact a rolling acceptance process for those people as their proposals are submitted.

Please send abstracts to:

Paul Reynolds (, and
Tom Claes (

People intending to present at or attend this conference might also be interested in a two-day conference immediately before this one-day seminar, organised by INSEP at the University of Ghent on the 8th-9th July 2020: Sexual Literacy: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century

Participation to the event is free of charge, but you’ll have to register. Registration will open at the end of March 2020 and close at the beginning of July 2020.

For more info on INSEP, please visit:
For more info on ANSER, please visit:

Organising Committee:

Tom Claes (INSEP, Ghent University)
Kristien Michielsen (ANSER, Ghent University)
Paul Reynolds (INSEP)