04. Quality Education and SRHR

The provision of quality education is fundamental to every aspect of sustainable development. SDG 4 seeks to “ensure inclusive and quality education and promote lifelong learning” (United Nations, 2016d). This encompasses SRHR. In Eastern and Southern Africa there have been great strides in the number of children enrolling for school and yet 9 million children of primary school age are still unable to attend, a disproportionate number of whom are girls. Barriers include costs, transport, discrimination, lack of sanitary products and obligations or pressures within the home.

Many children who attend school do not access comprehensive sexual education (CSE). CSE is an effective tool for preventing gender based violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), child marriages and unintended pregnancies. CSE teaches children their rights, helps them understand the changes in their bodies, and develops skills for forming healthy relationships and making informed choices about sexual and reproductive health.

There are various conventions and laws that support quality education as envisioned in SDG 4. The sections relevant to SRHR can be found below.

You can see how SDG 4 – Quality Education – relates to the SRHR of different groups below.

Women
Women SRHR of Women and Quality Education
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The United Nations has found that the majority of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections stem from a lack of education on SRHR among women (United Nations, 2004: 3). The persistent gender gap in the education system demonstrating lower participation among women and girls in Southern Africa may accentuate this.

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Women and SRHR.
The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
  • Article 6.0 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.
  • Article 10.0 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure their equal rights with men in the field of education.
  • Article 11.2 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and ensure their effective right to work.
  • Article 12.1 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.
  • Article 12.2 States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Article 16.1 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 12.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child.
  • Article 10.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits. Absolute protection and assistance should be accorded to the family … particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of
United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
  • Section 54 By 2005, reduce the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 20 per cent, and by 50 per cent by 2010, by: ensuring that 80 per cent of pregnant women accessing antenatal care have information, counselling and other HIV prevention services available to them, increasing the availability of and by providing access for HIV-infected women and babies to effective treatment to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as through effective interventions for HIV-infected women, including voluntary and confidential counselling and testing, access to treatment, especially anti-retroviral therapy and, where appropriate, breast milk substitutes and the provision of a continuum of care.
  • Section 60 By 2005, implement measures to increase capacities of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection, principally through the provision of health care and health services, including sexual and reproductive health, and through prevention education that promotes gender equality within a culturally and gender sensitive framework;
  • Section 61 By 2005, ensure development and accelerated implementation of national strategies for women’s empowerment, promotion and protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and reduction of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional and customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking in women and girls.
Children
Children SRHR of Children and Quality Education
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Children face many barriers to acquiring their full education, particularly girls: in the developing world nearly one fifth of all girls fall pregnant before 18, during menstruation millions of girls miss several days of school each month, familial duties make full days at school unattainable for many children, and the direct and indirect costs of education restrict male and female children from attending school. Not only do these barriers play a large role in reducing knowledge of SRHR, but also in increasing child marriage throughout Southern Africa. It has been found that without a secondary education children are three times more likely to marry before the age 18 (UN Foundation’s Universal Access project, 2016: 5).

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Children and SRHR
Convention on the rights of the child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
  • Article 1.1 States Parties shall prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography as provided for by the present Protocol.
  • Article 8.1 All state parties shall inform child victims of their rights, their role and the scope, timing and progress of the proceedings and of the disposition of their cases.
  • Article 9.2 States Parties shall promote awareness in the public at large, including children, through information by all appropriate means, education and training, about the preventive measures and harmful effects of the offences referred to in the present Protocol.
  • Article 10.3 States Parties shall promote the strengthening of international cooperation in order to address the root causes, such as poverty and underdevelopment, contributing to the vulnerability of children to the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and child sex tourism.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 10.0 Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation.
  • Article 13.2 Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
United Nations Declarations of Commitment on HIV/Aids.
  • Section 65 By 2003, develop and by 2005 implement national policies and strategies to: build and strengthen governmental, family and community capacities to provide a supportive environment for orphans and girls and boys infected and affected by HIV/AIDS including by providing appropriate counselling and psycho-social support; ensuring their enrolment in school and access to shelter, good nutrition, health and social services on an equal basis with other children; to protect orphans and vulnerable children from all forms of abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance.
  • Section 67 Urge the international community, particularly donor countries, civil society, as well as the private sector to complement effectively national programmes to support programmes for children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in affected regions, in countries at high risk and to direct special assistance to sub-Saharan Africa;
Men
Men SRHR of Men and Quality Education
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Many men and boys face immense pressure to act according to socially constructed gender norms which assume a patriarchal role. Given that the education systems in Southern Africa are populated primarily by males, it serves as an ideal opportunity to provide information on SRHR and gender equality to minimize violations including gender based violence which stem from the patriarchal system.

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Men and SRHR
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 3.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the present Covenant.
  • Article 13.1 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS
  • Section 47 By 2003, establish time-bound national targets to achieve the internationally agreed global prevention goal to reduce by 2005 HIV prevalence among young men and women aged 15 to 24 in the most affected countries by 25 per cent and by 25 per cent globally by 2010, and to intensify efforts to achieve these targets as well as to challenge gender stereotypes and attitudes, and gender inequalities in relation to HIV/AIDS, encouraging the active involvement of men and boys.
  • Section 53 By 2005, ensure that at least 90 per cent, and by 2010 at least 95 per cent of young men and women aged 15 to 24 have access to the information, education, including peer education and youth-specific HIV education, and services necessary to develop the life skills required to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection; in full partnership with youth, parents, families, educators and health-care providers.
LGBTIQ+
LGBTIQ+ SRHR of LGBTIQ+ communities and Quality Education
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Due to stigma and discrimination, sexual education for LGBTIQ+ people is not as widely distributed as it is for heterosexual people. Consequently, the tendency to engage in unsafe sexual and reproductive practices is higher (SIDA, 2010: 19).

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for LGBTIQ+ communities and SRHR
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 1.1 All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  • Article 12.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Universal Declaration on Human Rights
  • Article 1.0 Everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms put forth in this declaration, without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
United Nations Resolution - Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Decides To address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; to conduct, facilitate and support the provision of advisory services, technical assistance capacity- building and international cooperation in support of national efforts to combat violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Article 26.0 All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
United Nations Human Rights Committee
  • UHRC has found that the treaty includes an obligation to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Migrants & Refugees
Migrants & Refugees SRHR of Migrants and Refugees and Quality Education
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Stigma and discrimination along with potential language barriers and cultural differences, create barriers for migrants and refugees to access the appropriate education on SRHR.

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Migrants & Refugees and SRHR
Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrants and members of their families.
  • Article 28.0 Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to receive any medical care that is urgently required for the preservation of their life or the avoidance of irreparable harm to their health on the basis of equality of treatment with nationals of the State concerned.
  • Article 43.0 Migrant workers shall enjoy equality of treatment with nationals of the State of employment in relation to access to social and health services, provided that the requirements for participation in the respective schemes are met.
Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racism
  • Article 5.0 States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law in the enjoyment of the following rights: the right to marriage and choice of spouse; the right to public health, medical care, social security and social services; the right to education and training.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Article 1.0 Everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms put forth in this declaration, without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
People with Disabilites
People with Disabilites SRHR of people with disabilities and Quality Education
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People with disabilities tend to lack the appropriate comprehensive sexual education because conventional methods of SRHR education may be inadequately tailored for individuals living with disabilities of stereotypes and there is a widespread tendency to believe this population is not sexually active. Furthermore, individuals with intellectual disabilities are found to be at significantly higher risk of sexual violence than the general population (United Nations Human Rights et al., 2009: 3).

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for People with Disabilities and SRHR
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Article 8.1 States Parties undertake to adopt immediate, effective and appropriate measures: (b) To combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices relating to persons with disabilities, including those based on sex and age, in all areas of life; (c) To promote awareness of the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities.
  • Article 25.0 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services that are gender-sensitive, including health-related rehabilitation. In particular state parties shall provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.
  • Article 23.1 States Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others, so as to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to age-appropriate information, reproductive and family planning education are recognized, and the means necessary to enable them to exercise these rights are provided.
  • Article 24.1 States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Article 1.0 Everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms put forth in this declaration, without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Cultural and Religious Groups
Cultural and Religious Groups SRHR of Cultural/Religious Groups and Quality Education
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Religions which do not tolerate sex before marriage rarely provide youth with a comprehensive sexual education. This prevents youth from accessing important information through resources they may otherwise use such as parents or schools. As a result the knowledge of safe sexual and reproductive practices among this population is limited (UNFPA, 2016: 17).

Human Rights Conventions and Agreements
Convention of the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
  • Article 3.0 States Parties shall take in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
  • Article 5.0 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures: (a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Article 1.0 Everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms put forth in this declaration, without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Find Out More

Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention and Paths of Opportunities

Nduna, Mzikazi 2017. “Research brief: A case study on rights, values and services in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa”. Cultural Responses to Sexual Realities. 4-37. Retrieved from