What should sex ed look like?

CityPress - - t# - Jade@jadezwane.co.za

Teen preg­nancy and HIV are rife. So, is sex ed­u­ca­tion in schools fail­ing our kids? If so, what would the ideal sex ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum look like?

Firstly, we need to do away with the ab­sti­nence nar­ra­tive. With our cul­tural taboos, so­cial ex­pec­ta­tions, tribal cus­toms and in­ef­fec­tive sex ed­u­ca­tion, let us not pre­vent young peo­ple from hav­ing healthy sex lives. Stud­ies show that when they are ed­u­cated about their sex­u­al­ity, young­sters of­ten choose to wait to have sex, are less likely to take part in risky sex­ual be­hav­iour, and use con­doms and other con­tra­cep­tives.

The youth must be em­pow­ered through knowl­edge, tools and ser­vices to make in­formed and re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sions about their bod­ies and re­la­tion­ships. We need to do away with the stigma around ado­les­cent sex­u­al­ity. Although the gov­ern­ment makes con­tra­cep­tives and some ser­vices avail­able, the stigma pre­vents many young peo­ple from mak­ing use of th­ese valu­able mea­sures.

Not only will ef­fec­tive sex ed­u­ca­tion curb un­wanted preg­nan­cies and teach young peo­ple to pro­tect them­selves against sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, it will equip them with the nec­es­sary skills to nav­i­gate other life chal­lenges.

Hu­man rights should be the ba­sis of sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion, which should em­brace the range of pos­si­ble fam­ily cir­cum­stances, gen­der, sex­u­al­ity, race and re­li­gion. Deal­ing with so­cial is­sues, such as eco­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­ity, that af­fect sex­ual be­hav­iour is cru­cial for an ef­fec­tive cur­ricu­lum. It is not un­com­mon for im­pov­er­ished young women to en­ter into in­ter­gen­er­a­tional re­la­tion­ships and use sex as a cur­rency. Th­ese types of re­la­tion­ships are likely to spread HIV and other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

Par­ents and care­givers play an im­por­tant role in sex ed­u­ca­tion. It is a less for­mal dis­cus­sion than in the class­room, so young peo­ple may feel more con­fi­dent to ask ques­tions.

Our up­bring­ing shapes how we view sex as adults. We need to foster a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards sex, whether you be­lieve it should be saved for mar­riage or not. Young­sters should know that con­sen­sual sex be­tween adults is some­thing to be en­joyed.

When dis­cussing sex with your chil­dren, use the cor­rect bi­o­log­i­cal terms and age-ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage. If you did not have this with your own par­ents, which most peo­ple did not, you may want to read up on some of the ba­sics be­fore en­gag­ing your child. Be as pre­pared as pos­si­ble. Be hon­est. The con­ver­sa­tion on sex­u­al­ity does not open the door to sex, but closes it to the pos­si­ble dire con­se­quences of avoid­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

We can­not af­ford to turn a blind eye to the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of un­in­formed sex­ual be­hav­iour and re­la­tion­ships. The high rate of HIV/Aids-re­lated deaths, pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion and un­planned preg­nan­cies can­not be de­nied and should not be ig­nored.

PHOTO: FRANK HERHOLDT

Ed­u­cate your chil­dren about sex

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