Through the Looking Glass: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs and Their Impact on Adolescent Human Rights (2008)

Abstinence-only education policies and programs have recently been the subject of increasing number of reviews and critiques in the U.S. public health and social science research communities.  The authors of this article first present and discuss a case study of one U.S.-based human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW) that used a set of traditional human rights methods to investigate the health and rights impacts of recent sexuality education policies in the US. (Texas)* and in Uganda**.

The authors believe that rights-based analyses can facilitate the development of new coalitions of policy advocates who can use international human rights as a common standard to critique U.S. policies.  From their analyses of the HRW case studies, the authors present some key principles of human rights and demonstrate their potential use to U.S. advocates.  For example, international human rights law states that every person, including every child, “enjoys a fundamental right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds […]” which supports the fundamental right of adolescents to sexual health information. (Miller et al. 39).  Based on this premise, HRW argues that abstinence-only programs violate these rights to education and information and denies young people their choice to protect their right to health.

The authors hope that by engaging with human rights-based claims and human rights-oriented fact finding, the debate regarding sexuality education can shift towards comprehensive sexuality education.

* The Texas case study– Ignorance Only: HUV/AIDS, Human Rights and Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Programs in the United States. Texas: A Case Study< ** The Uganda case study– The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-only AIDS Program in Uganda

Citation:  Miller, A. M., & Schleifer, R. A. (2008). Through The Looking Glass: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs And Their Impact On Adolescent Human Rights.Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC5(3), 28-43.

Link to “Through the Looking Glass: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs and Their Impact on Adolescent Human Rights” (Subscription Only Journal Article)