The article below is pasted directly from the IPPF.  Read it to learn how your child (as young as 10) has sexual rights under the UN’s Rights of the Child.  Parents however, do not possess any rights as this document clearly states. 

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Live Link: International Planned Parenthood Federation

What do we mean by ‘young people’?

IPPF defines young people as all people between 10 and 24 years of age. This is the same definition used by the World Health Organization. IPPF recognizes that young people are very diverse and strives to deliver services and programmes that reflect and respect their diversity.

What do we mean when we say ‘all young people are sexual beings’?

Sexuality is a central part of being human for people of all ages, all around the world. Whether or not they are sexually active, young people have feelings, thoughts and experiences relating to their sexual identity, sexual behaviour, sexual organs, etc.

Sexuality is about a lot more than having sex. It is about the social rules, economic structures, political battles and religious ideologies that surround physical expressions of intimacy and the relationships within which such intimacy takes place.”  As external factors have a profound influence on young people and their sexual behaviour throughout their lives, it is in the interest of young people themselves, as well as the public good, to create an environment that is supportive and inclusive of young people’s sexuality.

Do young people have the right to sex?

Like other sexual rights, the right to enjoy sex derives from international agreements that state people have the right to pursue a “satisfying and safe sex life” (ICPD Programme of Action). IPPF is committed to implementing the IPPF Youth Manifesto and to promoting, protecting and upholding the sexual and reproductive health rights of all young people, including the rights:

• to information and education on sexuality
• to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including a full range of contraceptives
• to pleasure and confidence in relationships and all aspects of their sexuality
• to participate fully as active members of society

Do young people and children of all ages have the same rights?

Children and young people of all ages have the same rights, but what these rights mean to them in practice and therefore how they are met are different. Children of different ages have very different needs, for example the health needs of a 17-year-old are different from that of a three-year-old. As a child grows up the way that their rights are fulfilled will therefore change.

What is meant by ‘evolving capacity’ in the context of sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Evolving capacity means that young people, as individuals, are continually developing the ability to take full responsibility for their actions until a point when they are fully responsible. Having capacity to make decisions for oneself should not be linked with age-based notions: research has confirmed that capacities develop at different times for individual children.

Evolving capacities in the context of sexual and reproductive health and rights refer to the progressive development of physiological abilities to experience sex and reproduce, the psychological abilities to make informed decisions about counselling and health care, and the emotional and social abilities to engage in sexual behaviours (in accordance with the responsibilities and roles that this entails).

Translating evolving capacities into practice involves a dynamic process of striking a balance between protecting young people, while respecting their autonomy. Health care providers, teachers and others must tailor their services and guidance to the particular capacities of the individual at a given point in time.

Can adults make decisions on behalf of young people that are in their best interests?

The best interests of the child must be the primary concern when adults are making any decisions for them (article 3, Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC)). Decisions regarding children and young people, whether taken for them, with them or by them, must be balanced between their right to participate in decisions that affect their lives (article 12, CRC) and all the other rights that children and young people have.

The best interest of the child or young person always means taking their opinions into account. All major decisions should take into consideration the young person’s evolving capacities and perspectives.

Do parents have rights over their children?

There is no international agreement on the rights of parents. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, outlines the duties and responsibilities of parents towards their children. Parents have a special duty to protect and promote their children’s rights, but they do not have ‘rights’ over their children. As the child grows and matures, the young person will develop the capacity to exercise their rights on his or her own behalf.   

The International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action   noted that parents have a responsibility to guide adolescents’ decision making, not to make decisions for them. This responsibility should always be balanced with adolescents’ own rights.

Who should provide young people with guidance on matters of sexuality and reproduction?

Many people in young people’s lives can and do provide guidance and information about sex and reproduction. Most young people seek and receive information on sexuality from a variety of sources, including teachers, health providers, peers and the internet. Some people, usually those who are closest to young people (i.e. parents, guardians, teachers), have a responsibility to provide information that is accurate and comprehensive. The person(s) (or sources) that young people seek information from varies according to individual circumstances.

Young people need sexuality education and parents, as essential sources of information and as role models, can influence their children’s sexual development. Parents’ and guardians’ duty to protect and promote their children’s rights and well-being includes ensuring that they have the information they need in order to make informed decisions about sex. Parents and children often find it embarrassing to discuss these issues, for a variety of reasons.

Parents and guardians can also support their children by fostering a close relationship where children feel that they can talk with their parents or guardians and tell them what is going on in their lives. Evidence shows that young people’s experiences of parental connectedness – feeling close to, cared about and loved by a parent or guardian – are highly protective against risk behaviours such as unsafe sex.

Other community members including educators, health providers and religious leaders also have a role in supporting and guiding young people on sexuality and reproductive health. Community groups and government agencies play a critical role in delivering information and education about sex and reproduction to marginalized young people, such as those living on the street, orphans, etc. Peer education programmes can also be very effective at delivering comprehensive information and education about sexuality and reproduction, especially among hard-to-reach groups.

There are also a large number of websites that provide sexuality information and education. Not all information on the web is accurate, however, so it is critical that parents, teachers, health providers and others direct young people to websites that are credible and evidence-based.

What is comprehensive sexuality education?

Comprehensive sexuality education is “a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationships and intimacy.”  Good sexuality education is essential to help young people to prepare for healthy and fulfilling lives. Comprehensive sexuality education should provide information that is accurate, comprehensive, rights-based and gender-sensitive. It should be:

• Comprehensive: it should include key topics needed for a thorough sexuality, HIV prevention or family life education curriculum.
• Right-based: it should be founded on core values and human rights principles and laws that guarantee human dignity, equal treatment and opportunities for participation.
• Gender-sensitive: educational material integrates an understanding of the importance of gender equality and provides young men and women with tools to critically reflect on the social factors that affect their behaviour.
• Citizenship-oriented: it emphasizes critical thinking skills, which foster responsible behaviour, an understanding of how institutions and relationships function in society, and action skills that promote enabling social conditions.
• Sex-positive: the materials should demonstrate a positive attitude towards sexuality and sexual enjoyment, and clarify that sexual pleasure is important for personal well-being and happiness.

What is an appropriate age for sexuality education or access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception?

It is never too early to start talking to children about sexual matters. Openness, even with young children, will show that sex is an acceptable topic of conversation. Children begin learning about their own bodies at a very young age; they soon learn that boys and girls have different genitals and may satisfy their curiosity by examining each other and asking questions. As they age, children become more aware of gender and questions become more complex. Young people will likely experiment with sexual sensations, and sooner or later most of them will begin having sex.
  
Policies and programmes for young people should focus not so much on age, but on the specific developmental needs and rights of individuals, including their evolving capacities, as they transition from childhood to adulthood.

Are young people’s rights conditional on behaving responsibly?

A common response to talking about young people’s sexual and reproductive rights is for people to ask “what about their responsibilities?” The idea behind this is that rights are in some way conditional on young people meeting their responsibilities.

Every person has rights; rights are never conditional, nor can they be given or taken away. IPPF accepts that young people have sexual rights and we are there to support them with their decisions, whatever their choices may be. If a young person is not thought to be acting responsibly this does not have any bearing on their rights.

Do young people have the right to choose if, when and how to disclose their HIV status?

Regardless of age, people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when and how to disclose their HIV status. Safer sex, including protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and unwanted pregnancy, is a responsibility of both partners.

Does a rights-based approach mean providers shouldn’t make judgements about young people’s sexual behaviour?

Providers need to be able to separate whatever personal thoughts they have about young people’s sexual lives from the efforts they need to make to meet their rights and provide high quality health services. Rights are not a matter for judgement, they belong to young people and providers have a duty to try their utmost to meet them.

Everyone has a responsibility to respect the human rights of others.

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