We thank Bijlmakers et al. for their interest in our article, "A never-before opportunity to strengthen investment and action on adolescent contraception, and what we must do to make full use of it", and are grateful for the opportunity to respond to their four key assertions.
First, we fully agree that sexual rights are controversial, which we discussed in depth in our original article. However, we reaffirm that there is global consensus on adolescent contraception as evidenced in part by recent data emerging from FP2020 on 38.8 million additional modern contraceptive users, the Global Goods and commitments emanating from the 2017 FP2020 summit, and their translated actions at the country level. Additionally, we clarify WHO's working definitions of sex, sexual health, and sexuality, and introduce WHO's newly released Operational Framework on Sexual Health and its Linkages to Reproductive Health. We welcome and agree with Bijlmakers et al.'s second point, which elaborates on the barrier of restrictive laws and policies. To address this barrier, we describe examples of resources that can help programmes understand the political/social context that drives these laws and policies at national and subnational levels, and identify programmatic gaps and best practices to address them within specific political/social contexts. We also welcome and agree with Bijlmakers et al.'s third point, which reiterates that discomfort around adolescent sexuality is a major barrier for sexuality education. In response, we point to four relevant reviews of CSE policies and their implementation, our original article's description of three programmes that have successfully addressed inadequate teacher skills, and our ongoing work on documenting strategies to build an enabling environment for CSE and deal with resistance. Lastly, we wholeheartedly agree that the harmful policies noted by Bijlmakers et al. are damaging to international efforts to improve adolescent SRH and rights. We argue, though, that these policies alone will not undermine efforts by countless other stakeholders around the world who are working in defence and promotion of adolescents' SRH and rights.
Despite the many valid obstacles noted by Bijlmakers et al., we truly believe that this is "a never-before opportunity to strengthen investment and action on adolescent contraception".