The National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX, Spanish acronym) is an institution for education and research in the field of human sexuality. It is open to scientific research, exchange of experiences and knowledge dialogues. It relies on professionals of recognized prestige in different disciplines, who undertake the study of sexuality with an integral approach.
Since the first years of the Revolution, numerous educational and support actions were carried out. They laid the foundation for the appearance in 1972 of the national Sexual Education programs in a process joining different sectors of the State and the civil society, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC, Spanish acronym) and the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP, Spanish acronym).
In 1972, the FMC created the National Work Group on Sexual Education (GNTES, Spanish acronym), lead by Dr. Celestino Álvarez Lajonchere, in charge of coordinating the design and implementation of the National program of Sexual Education (PRONES, Spanish acronym). The GNTES was in charge of coordinating and carrying out training and dissemination activities to sensitize professionals and the general population. It was formed by specialists of the FMC, the Communist Youth Union (UJC, Spanish acronym) and the ministries of Public Health and Education. A network of provincial and municipal commissions was organized with the purpose of strengthening the Program’s reach.
In 1977, the GNTES attained its own legal personality and was adjoined as an advisory group to the Commission for the Attention of Rights Equality for Women, Family, Childhood and Youth. This decision reinforced the scientific bases of sexuality education, through the support of several publications by national and foreign authors, together with their diffusion in the media; formation of therapists and sexual educators was begun; specialized care service to transsexual people was institutionalized and orientation and therapy consultations for the prioritized attention of distress associated with sexual dysfunctions.
Founded in 1989, to continue the work carried out by the National Work Group on Sexual Education, CENESEX focused its objectives on the theoretical and methodological development of scientific knowledge generation and the formation of professional human resources to develop the National Program of Sexual Education (PRONES, Spanish acronym). Thus, the scientific bases for sexual education work were consolidated and the introduction of the gender approach as the transversal axis of PRONES began.
CENESEX has the mission of promoting the application of the Cuban policy of Sexual Education by coordinating the participation of organizations and institutions in charge of social communication, community work, education, orientation and sexual therapy as a contribution to living sexuality in a healthy, full, pleasant and responsible way.
Likewise, CENESEX advises and designs proposals for sexuality education and sexual health with a gender and human rights approach in the curricula of the Health Sciences Universities. It directly participates in the preparation of human resources in the health and education sectors and others, through basic courses, diplomas and master degrees in the areas of sexuality education, sexual orientation and therapy, as well as the integration of community work methodologies, as in the case of the popular education methodology, the Methodology for Corrective Community Processes, both supported by the Martin Luther King Center and the Marie Langer Center for Community Health Development.
Its main activities are:
- Propose, advise, and coordinate the Cuban policy on sexual education and health with the participation of the state central administration bodies, civil society organizations and other organizations and institutions;
- Advise MINSAP, theoretically and methodologically in the design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and systematization of the Cuban Program for Sexual Health (ProCUSS, Spanish acronym);
- Advise institutions of the state central administration regarding integral cross sectioning of sexuality education, sexual health and sexual rights in the development of local strategies;
- Advise MINSAP in the design, implementation, evaluation and systematization of sexual health care in the National Health System;
- Direct the National Commission for Integral Attention to Transsexual People;
- Develop scientific-care services in the field of integral education of sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights;
- Methodologically advise the PRONES provincial work groups and the Sexology and Sexuality Education Cathedras in Cuban higher education institutions;
- Design and implement audiovisual means and informative and communicational editorials for the promotion of sexual health and prevention in the fields of health, education and sexual rights;
- Develop research on sexuality in the health, education, local-community development and sexual rights fields at local, territorial, national and international levels;
- Carry out scientific and cultural activities contributing to integral sexuality education, promotion of sexual health and rights at national and international levels;
- Design, implement and evaluate at national and international levels academic programs for postgraduates, cadre formation and sensitization regarding integral education of sexuality and the promotion of sexual health and rights.
Since its creation, the Center has organized national and international events. The institution is a member of the World Association for Sexology (WAS), since 1987 and since 1991 of the Latin American Federation of Sexology and Sexual Education Associations (FLASSES, Spanish acronym). Likewise, it carries out other activities at a national level. Among its contributions to sexuality education in the community environment are the design, validation and implementation of the programs: “Growing in adolescence”, “My life project”, “Learning to prevent from diversity”, “How do I show I love you” and “Preserve your dreams” aimed at sexuality education and prevention and promotion of sexual health.
Further, CENESEX has collaborated with other health institutions and scientific societies in the design of sexuality education modules and their update; for example, in the Diploma of Child-Youth Gynecology, in the master of Comprehensive Integral Care of Middle-aged Women and in the Program of Integral Health for Adolescents. It has contributed to the development and implementation of other programs beginning with the detection of the needs in different territories of the country, as a result of the investigations of the seven editions of the master of Sexuality Studies, for example: “Peace starts at home” in Santiago de Cuba.
CENESEX promoted in 1993 the creation of Cathedras for Sexual Education in the country’s former Institutes of Medical Sciences and the National School of Public Health. Moreover, it has pressed for sexuality education programs based on the educational needs of the students and the school schedules. In the last six years, it has organized a program for the training of sexual health promoters and for the prevention of STI/HIV-AIDS among students of these education centers and the teaching personnel with emphasis on social inclusion and respect towards sexual diversity. To achieve this, in 2009 a collection of literature on sexual health was published that serves as material basis for the development of the program.
In 1996, by agreement between CENESEX and the Ministry of Education, and with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), sexuality education was introduced at all levels of the National Education System through the project For a Responsible and Happy Education, although in the beginning it was mainly directed towards middle education and had a gender approach.
The journal Sexología y Sociedad was created in the framework of the 7th Latin American Congress of Sexology and Sexual Education and the 1st Cuban Congress on Sexual Education, Orientation and Therapy, held in 1994, as a response to the need of professionals from Cuba and other countries to share theoretical contributions, experiences and results of scientific research.
In 2005, the “Editorial CENESEX” publishing house was founded to promote and transmit the institution informational products, allowing development of a commercial policy of the Editorial CENESEX with national and foreign distributors. In April 1986, the Documentation Center was created to meet the information demands of professionals on sexual health topics and to support teaching and research.
In the last years, social demands regarding the role of CENESEX have increased both nationally and internationally and their magnitude exceeds what was assigned to the institution in terms of its main activities, as well as the capacity of the institution to respond to them.
At present, CENESEX gives direct attention to five social community networks Youth Network for Health and Sexual Rights, Transgender People Network (TransCuba), Network of Lesbian and Bisexual Women, Humanity for Diversity (HxD) and the Network of Lawyers for Sexual Rights, with headquarters in the different provinces of the country, which entails continuous travel of specialists to the territories to train monitors and evaluate the actions planned.
The Center carries out broad international relations, having collaboration agreements with more than nine countries. Foreign delegations and personalities, including Ministers, Prime Ministers, First Ladies, Presidents of the Senate, Political Figures, High Officials of the United Nations, Government Officials, as well as renowned personalities in the arts and culture worldwide, have visited our institution.
CENESEX plans different congresses, meetings and international courses. Four national Conferences are held, which imply hard work of institution specialists during the entire year: Cuban Activities against Homophobia, World Sexual Health Day, No to Violence against Women and the World AIDS Day, apart from other scientific curricular activities such as workshops, diplomas, etc. In this sense, the policy is directed towards achieving more work integration with other ministries.
Work has been carried out to consolidate the National Program of Sexual Education (PRONES), the subprogram of Sexual Health (PROCUSS) and other specific subprograms of the involved State Central Administration Bodies (OACE, Spanish acronym). It is expected that they will be more strongly and efficaciously carried out within the localities to achieve local-community development strategies transversal to the topic of sexuality education and sexual health.
The institution receives foreign students for research internships, carries out studies in other countries, as the one recently finished on pregnancy in adolescence in Venezuela and Cuba. Collaboration relations with foreign institutions have grown: UNASUR (Spanish acronym for Union of South American Nations), WAS, FLASSES, WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), International Society for Sexual Medicine, SLAN (Spanish acronym for Latin American Society of Neuropsychology), ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association), and ILGA-LAC (International Lesbian and Gay Association for Latin America and the Caribbean), OutGames, the Spanish Clinical Sexology Association, the Marie Langer Community Health Development Center in Madrid; Transidentity activities with the French Embassy in Cuba, agreements with the Centre for Research on Cuba in England and the University of Nottingham and revision of the International Classification of Diseases (CIE-11, Spanish acronym) with CENESEX participation, as part of the team, are some examples.[team_members]