Con­doms ‘can’t just be dis­pensed to chil­dren’

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“Giving a con­dom with­out en­abling in­formed de­ci­sion-mak­ing would be a way that we do not en­gage fully.

“If the con­dom is part of the dis­cus­sion around sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health, in­clud­ing rights, then we are start­ing to make a real dif­fer­ence for the fu­ture – ad­dress­ing not just pub­lic health is­sues but also ad­dress­ing some of the other ma­jor trau­mas peo­ple face – rape and gen­der vi­o­lence,” he said.

Vic­tor added that such dis­cus­sions would also as­sist peo­ple in ex­plor­ing other, safer ways of be­ing in­ti­mate with­out the as­sump­tion that there was only one way.

He said that a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of ado­les­cent pupils did en­gage in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity of some kind, and that these in­ter­ac­tions were fraught with po­ten­tially trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences such as rape, un­wanted preg­nan­cies, gen­der vi­o­lence, the po­ten­tial for con­tract­ing HIV, STIs or Hepati­tis C, cou­pled with a loss of dreams and fu­ture eco­nomic un cer­tainty.

“It is im­por­tant for us as so­ci­ety to com­pre­hen­sively ad­dress this re­al­ity in ways that are em­pow­er­ing – something that clearly flows from our Bill of Rights and re­lated pol­icy and law – to en­able ado­les­cents to make more re­spon­si­ble, in­formed de­ci­sions and un­der­stand that they have a choice,” Vic­tor said.

He also said that sex, in­ti­macy and close re­la­tion­ships were of great in­ter­est to most ado­les­cents as they de­vel­oped into in­di­vid­u­als within a so­cial and re­la­tional net­work.

“Given this re­al­ity, the ques­tion we have to ask is whether we will take the re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­gage and teach our chil­dren in a way that as­sists them to make in­formed de­ci­sions, or whether we hide be­hind moral claims, try to sweep the is­sue un­der the rug and os­tracise any­one who does not con­form, with all the long term neg­a­tive im­pacts for the per­son.”

Kriel said if the coun­try were to take a cue from in­ter­na­tional poli­cies, best prac­tice around the pro­tec­tion against STIs/HIV/and un­wanted preg­nan­cies and a com­bi­na­tion of ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tion, as well as teach­ing and en­cour­ag­ing ab­sti­nence, would have to be en­cour­aged.

She said it was also cru­cial that the par­ents of teenagers be­come in­volved in their chil­dren’s sex ed­u­ca­tion, adding peer ed­u­ca­tion groups could also be a valu­able re­source.

“If par­ents can be ed­u­cated in how to ed­u­cate their chil­dren ap­pro­pri­ately about sex and the con­se­quences thereof from a young age, there can be a dra­matic change in ado­les­cent sex­ual be­hav­iour.”

The South African Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union has called for sex­u­al­ity ed­u­ca­tion to be made a com­pul­sory com­po­nent of the life ori­en­ta­tion sub­ject taught at schools – as a cru­cial part of pre­par­ing them for life.

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