Konferanse om seksualundervisning

High level technical meeting in preparation for a Summit on advancing comprehensive sexuality education to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Norway!

I am glad to see so many of you here today – and to see so many parts of the world represented.

To promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights is a priority for my government.

Every woman must be in a position to decide for herself if she wants children, with whom, when and how many.

Being able to avoid health problems and even death due to unplanned pregnancies has enormous implications for women.

We can never accept that religion and so-called traditional values are used as an excuse to deprive women of their rights.

Today we are here to share knowledge about an important topic – Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

Too many young people lack the knowledge they need to make informed sexual and reproductive decisions.

This leaves them vulnerable to coercion, child marriage, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.

The evidence is clear:

Comprehensive sexuality education is essential to improve sexual and reproductive health.

It is also vital for gender equality.

Reaching goal number 5 on gender equality in Agenda 2030 is key to succeed in achieving the other SDGs. Gender equality is not only a standalone goal; sustainable development depends on it.

Every year at least 22 000 women die, and around 7 million women are admitted to hospitals as a result of unsafe abortions.

More than 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Access to comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and safe abortions is important to give women and girls control over their own bodies and lives.

It is a paradox that while girls in many places are considered ‘old enough’ to get married, get pregnant and give birth, they are often viewed as ‘too young’ to have access to sexuality education and family planning.

All at a great cost, especially for the girls.

Unfortunately, many teenage pregnancies happen within a marriage.

A recent report published by the World Bank about the cost of child marriage found that continuing this practice would cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030.

The conclusion comes easy – we must put an end to child marriage!

I would like to share with you some of the experience we have in Norway.

We believe that comprehensive sexuality education should be part of general basic education. This is the only way we can provide access for all.

The education should be knowledge based, age-appropriate and non-judgmental. It should be adapted to all sexual orientations.

In Norway, sexuality education is included in several subjects in school, for instance science and social studies at different grade levels.  

Research shows that most teenagers in Norway take informed choices.

We know that comprehensive sexuality education does not lead to more sex among young people – quite the opposite; it may lead to a later sexual debut.

But we also face challenges:

The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases remains high in Norway. This indicates that we must design new and more targeted efforts.

Even in Norway not all teachers are properly trained to provide quality CSE.

In countries where teacher training is poor, this is an even bigger challenge.

In addition to teaching CSE in the classroom, each school in Norway has access to a school nurse. Their job is to advise and provide contraception. Contraception is provided for free to teenagers from 16-19 years old.

Young people I meet often mention how important the school health service is.

Youth need good, professional answers to their questions. In addition to providing CSE in schools, the government finances a website called Ung.no, where 200 professionals respond to questions from youth. Here young people can ask any question they want anonymously. Many of the questions concern sexuality.

Norway also train and finance our medical students to provide sexuality education in schools. Our experiences with this practice is very good. As they typically are younger than the teachers, they have a better chance at creating an open and frank discussion about sensitive topics.

In addition we finance the civil society to assist in our teaching. "Sex and Society" and "Sex and Politics" are examples of organisations that receive grants from the government.

We also launched a  youth health strategy in June 2016. The strategy's focus is on availability, capacity and well-coordinated services. This also includes online health services.

We also have an Escalation plan for combating violence and abuse, which aims at preventing violence in close relationships. Several of the measures are about raising awareness about violence and sexual abuse – among children and in all relevant services.

Young people are key to our common future. Together with UNFPA  and other partners, Norway is glad to host this initiative to expand comprehensive sexuality education.

Girls' education is an important priority in Norway's development policy. CSE must form an integrated part of a larger effort to ensure that girls stay in school and complete their education.

Norway remains committed to play our role. Together we can make the difference.

I wish you all the best for the conference!