Control and regulation of sexuality – in particular adolescent girls’ sexuality – is a critical and often unaddressed manifestation of gender inequality that exists in different cultural contexts and communities around the world. For adolescent girls, restrictions on sexuality are exacerbated by age and gender, which are key dimensions of inequality. Adolescent girls usually lack power and agency over their own lives and are often highly constrained in their ability to make decisions for themselves.

Rooted in patriarchy, control of adolescent girls’ sexuality is a driver of one of the world’s most prevalent harmful practices: child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU). CEFMU is a stark example of how women’s and girls’ life choices – down to the most intimate of if, whom and when to marry – are taken from them and controlled by others. While there is a growing awareness amongst practitioners, policymakers and others that addressing patriarchy and control of sexuality are key to understanding and effectively combatting CEFMU,1 too few programmes that aim to reduce CEFMU take on the issue of sexuality as central to their work.2 Unless control of sexuality and harmful gender norms that subordinate the position of women and girls in society are addressed head on, CEFMU will persist.

In response to this, the CEFMU and Sexuality Programs Working Group was formed. The group commissioned an analysis to identify gender- transformative approaches (GTAs) that work at the intersection of CEFMU and sexuality that could potentially be adapted for other contexts and to understand the key determinants of success for these programmes.

This report captures promising gender-transformative work taking place in politically and culturally conservative contexts, including programmes led by grassroots organisations. The findings are meant to be used: 1) as a learning tool for programme implementers, 2) to present gaps and opportunities for future research, and 3) as a tool for advocates to open dialogue with leaders and policymakers about how programming designed to address CEFMU can advance girls’ and women’s greater sexual agency, bodily autonomy, freedom and dignity.