Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Paraguay: The Dispute of Two Models

July 10, 2022

10 Jul, 2022

BY Mirta Moragas Mereles

Mirta Moragas, June 2022

A group of young protestors holding a white colored banner that says exigimos educacion integral de la sexualidad
Demonstration demanding CSE. Text in the poster: “We demand CSE” Photo credit: BECA

In May 2022, the case of a 6-year-old boy, a victim of sexual abuse by two teenagers in a private school became public. The child had previously reported that he was a victim of bullying by two teenagers and the school took no action. Even when the mother reported the abuse, the school did nothing. When the scandal broke out, the prosecutor’s office prosecuted the school principal, the coordinator, and the teacher of the child’s grade for breach of duty of care. The Ministry of Children and Adolescents offered support and guidance to the family. However, in most cases, the State prioritises the criminal process, without placing the victim and their healing at the centre of the process.

Each day in Paraguay two girls and adolescents between 10 and 14 years give birth – mostly due to sexual abuse. Faced with this case, the debate about the lack of a public policy on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) was back in the spotlight in Paraguay. The last attempt at a CSE policy failed in 2011 due to pressure from anti-rights groups. Since then, the Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) has not installed any policies. A 2017 resolution banned “gender theory and/or ideology” in educational materials. Although no materials were modified by this resolution, it had a chilling effect and made the topic taboo. Teachers do not provide information on any aspect of sex education – including the prevention of sexual abuse. 

The case showed the urgency of comprehensive sex education, especially as a method of preventing sexual abuse. This scenario opened a dispute about two models of sex education: a conservative model and a comprehensive sexuality education model. The conservative model has no rights or gender perspective and seeks to “silence” the voices that demand CSE. It is being promoted by anti-gender and anti-rights groups, with an emphasis on blaming sexuality. Its prevention of abuse focuses only on responses and denunciation once the event has occurred. Unfortunately, the organisations that carry this out enter schools under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. In this way, the MEC evades its responsibility to implement a more comprehensive model. 

The comprehensive sexuality education model seeks – from a rights and gender perspective – to provide tools for guilt-free education of sexuality as well as the prevention of sexual abuse. Feminist organizations and sexual and reproductive advocates are working to promote the CSE model both at domestic and international levels, encouraging States to commit to advancing a rights-based approach. Further, they are working on strategies of resistance to anti-rights campaigns. 

This experience from Paraguay shows that when we move forward to make transcendental issues of sexual and reproductive rights visible and make the issue a priority on the agenda, the conservative response is to offer a “solution” that does not really transform anything. These contexts generate new challenges for organizations that defend sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality.