Sexuality education and reproductive justice

Toward a positive, inclusive and emancipatory sexuality education has been a trending sentence in Québec over the last few years.

Indeed, it’s a great catchphrase that has been used in a diversity of contexts. It is nonetheless important to know its origins and the social/political concepts it refers to, so as not to turn it into an empty shell.

First appearance

The sentence was first coined in a grant proposal for the Services aux Collectivités de l’Université du Québec à Montréal in 2014. Summary of the request goes as this :

“ This project’s goal is that school-age youth can receive the information and tools necessary to discover and experiment sexuality in a positive, inclusive and emancipatory way. It proposes to analyse the needs, expectations and critics of youth towards sexuality education. And to put those into perspective with some sex-ed curricula that are currently offered in Quebec. This research wants to critically explore the inclusion – or not- of content related to the sexualities of folks whose identities, capacity, orientations or experiences are marginalized.”

This grant request led to the publication of the research « Promouvoir des programmes d’éducation à la sexualité positive, inclusive et émancipatrice.»  by J. Descheneaux,  C. Piazzesi , G.Pagé, M. Pirotte and FQPN in 2018.


Where it all came from

At the end of the 2000, under the influence of the now deceased Abby Lippman, La Fédération du Québec pour le Planning des naissances started to work on the Reproductive Justice movement and its possible adaptation to the Québec context.

Reproductive justice is both an analytical and a practical approach, as well as, a movement that emerged in the United States in the 1990s. The phrase was developed by African-American women during the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994. It resulted from a fusion between “social justice” and “reproductive rights”. Reproductive justice situates the fulfillment of complete sexual and reproductive autonomy within the larger sphere of social justice. This movement emerged from the initiative of Indigenous women and Women of Colour who continue to advance the initiative.

Different strategies

Because reproductive oppression affects people in a diversity of ways, a multidimensional approach is necessary to fight oppression and to defend the sexual, reproductive and parental health and rights of all. In “A New Vision” (2005), Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (now named Forward Together) depicted three complementary strategies to reach this goal :

  • reproductive health (focus is on ensuring access to health care for all, emphasis is on service delivery.)
  • reproductive rights (focus is on current legal and policy structures, emphasis is on individual rights and capacity for self-determination.)
  • reproductive justice (focus is on radical social transformation, emphasis is on the communities and systems.)

This framework of political analysis and actions — transposed to sexuality education — led to the conceptualization of a sexuality education that is positive (individual level), inclusive (structural level) and emancipatory (systemic level). It may not look like much but many years of reading and analizing went into this!



Bringing sexuality education back in Québec’s schools

The provincial government announced in 2014 that it would bring back formalized sexuality education in Québec schools. Several of us were concerned about the contents it would propose to youth as neither the target audience, nor the professionals in the fields were asked to collaborate in the creation of the program.

We wanted this program to be based on an intersectional/anti-oppressive framework so that it would answer the needs of all youth and not re-marginalize some bodies, identities and experiences.

The collaborative research between UQAM/FQPN wanted to make a case for this approach, based on research that put forward the expertise of the youth. Sadly, the new contents were already done and ready to go and our findings had no impact.

This program and the way it is implemented is still debated and there is an ongoing campaign around sexuality education in Québec led by Coalition Educ-Sex.



Soooo, enough small talk, what’s behind those pretty words?

There is sure much that can be added so do not hesitate to come forward with ideas and add-ons.

Positive sexuality education

  • Aknowledges the right of all to have a sexuality (or not);
  • Promotes the idea that sexuality is a source of pleasure and wellbeing;
  • Recognises that desire and pleasure play a part in people’s decision-making process;
  • Encourages everyone to realize their sexual potential, whatever shape or form it takes, without judgement, as long as all parties are consenting;
  • Recognises the capacity of all to make the best choices for their sexual and reproductive lives, because they are the experts of their context.

Inclusive sexuality education

  • Takes into account the diversity of bodies, identities and experiences;
  • Uses material and content that represent this diversity;
  • Adapts content and pedagogical approaches to everyone’s abilities;
  • Integrates all realities in the main curriculum, because everyone has the right to receive the necessary information to make informed choices about their bodies and sexualities, whatever their identities, capacities or experiences;
  • Takes in consideration the needs and expertise of its public.

Emancipatory sexuality education

  • Underlines the relationships between systems of oppression/privilege and sexuality (which bodies are considered “in”/desirable? Who has access to privacy? Who can make choices?);
  • Helps people make sense of social, political and economic dynamics and their impact on one’s sexuality, and politicizes lived experiences (making the personal political);
  • Underlines how systems impact intimacy and sexuality: fatphobia, racism, rape culture, ableism, cis-heteronormativity, etc. and therefore gives everyone tools to dismantle those systems, individually and as communities;
  • Is actively working toward social justice.

If you write things or read some interesting articles about sexuality education theories, please forward them to the SEX-ED + nerd…

Picture by  Collectif de collages féministes de Québec


ASIAN COMMUNITIES FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, 2005, “A new vision for advancing our movement for reproductive health, reproductive rights and reproductive justice” .


DESCHENEAUX, J. PAGÉ, G. PIAZZESI, C. PIROTTE, M. FQPN, 2018, “Promouvoir des programmes d’éducation à la sexualité positive, inclusive et émancipatrice : méta-analyse qualitative intersectionnelle des besoins exprimés par les jeunes” .

FPQN, 2014, “REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, Or applying a social justice lens to sexual, reproductive and maternal health and rights

PLAN INTERNATIONAL, 2020, “Putting the C in CSE: standards for content, delivery and environment of comprehensive sexuality education

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