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Translating Sexuality. A Comparative Study on the Localization of International Standards for Sexuality Education in School Education Contexts

Sara Kolah Ghoutschi

International approaches demanding a liberal understanding of sexuality education have been adopted into schools curricula since the mid-1990s. This also applies to the concept of sexuality education propagated by international and non-governmental organisations, which calls on governments to ensure comprehensive access to sexuality education for young people.

This research project investigates how international approaches and regulations for sexuality education are localized and translated in national, but above all in local and especially in school contexts of societies in the Global-South. The starting point is the assumption that a liberal and biomedical understanding of sexual and reproductive health dominates in international regulations on sexuality education, encountering institutional, political and social resistance in the process of localization in these societies. Localization means translating global contexts into local ones. Translation, in turn, is understood as interactive mediation through transfer into new contexts. Regarding school mediation: How do local actors translate these international approaches of sexual and reproductive health, which have already found their way into national education plans? In this study we look into the different forms of translation occurring in this context, i.e. resistance, avoidance, reinterpretation and adoption.

In our comparative study we examine translation practices in different school contexts in Ethiopia and Kenya. In particular we look into school curricula and related processes at the national and municipal levels, translation of rules and regulations on sexuality education in international workshops and training courses (especially for teachers), and school-related everyday interactions in which the translation of sexuality education takes place.

The study aims to develop a more comprehensive understanding of translation and localization processes in particular for contested international norms and standards.

Project Period: 2018-2021
Funding: Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker
Team: Sara Kolah Ghoutschi, Alina de Luna Aldape