sex education

sex education

  • Will Someone Please Tell Me What ‘Sexual Activity’ Is?

    I see the phrase ‘sexual activity’ almost on a daily basis, mostly in newspapers or in online articles quoting what a government official said. What does it mean?

    Is it a social activity or is it something you do on your own? Do you need to be a member of a certain club and pay a fee?

    When do you engage in ‘sexual activity’ and where? Why are teenagers not supposed to take part in it?

    Who invented it? Is there a manual on how to do it well? Can you make money from being good at ‘sexual activity’?

    How should you dress when you want to be ‘sexually active’? Do you need things to get you ‘active’ or does it happen spontaneously?

    Do you need special gear? Are there stores that sell you what you need to make your ‘sexual activity’ successful?

    How common is ‘sexual activity’? Aside from teenagers (though still don’t know why), is it OK for other people to be ‘sexually active’?

    Are there certain people that are better at it than others are? What makes them better?

    If your age matters, does your gender or skin colour matter too: are there certain genders, ethnic groups that are supposed to be ‘sexually active’ and not others?

    Is it OK to talk to your friends or people you trust about your interest in ‘sexual activity’? Or is it better to strictly discuss it with strangers? Or are you supposed to refrain from talking about ‘sexual activity’ completely?

    Actually, is it OK to ask what ‘sexual activity’ is at all?
    - Sarah Osman is Head of New Business Development at Marie Stopes South Africa. The opaque discourse around sex in South Africa exhausts her. She writes this piece in her personal capacity.

  • NGO Makes Case for Sex Education in Schools

    The Swedish Association for Sex Education (RFSU) has termed teachers' difficulties and discomfort in teaching key sex education topics as a challenge that needs to be urgently addressed.

    RFSU project manager, Dr Cuthbert Maendaenda, says that in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, many teachers have in most cases failed to overcome their personal motives towards issues in sex education, hence denying students understanding of some crucial aspects.

    Maendaenda explains: “Some people think that we do not have sex education in our schools, the fact is that the education is there but students are not able to get full dosage as teachers have been skipping some information when teaching."

    To read the article titled, “NGO makes case for sex education in schools,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Learners See Need for Sex Education

    Children in sub-Saharan Africa are highly aware of the sexualised world they live in and are at dire risk falling pregnant or contracting HIV/AIDS or both as teenagers if they are treated as mere innocents.

    According to a study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Cambridge University, children themselves say they want to discuss sex because they see evidence of it all around them in any case.

    According to Statistics South Africa’s ‘General Household Survey 2010: Focus on Schooling’ report, more than 89 000 schoolgirls were already pregnant or fell pregnant between July 2009 and July 2010,

    To read the article titled, “It's time we had a talk about sex, say SA schoolkids,” click here.

    Mail & Guardian
  • Sex Education Recommended for Primary Schools

    Experts in education, children’s rights and HIV/AIDS say primary school pupils are far more willing to talk about the risks and role of sex in their communities than adults realised.

    They believe that statistics such as the 24.4 percent pregnancy rate among girls in grades 8-11 shown by the 2008 South African National Youth at Risk Survey, are a reason for schools to tackle the issue.

    Deputy head of the education faculty at the University of Cambridge, Dr Colleen McLaughlin, says that a ‘social dialogue’ is needed in order to inform teacher training and sex education curricula in schools.

    To read the article titled, “Experts recommend schools provide sex education,” click here.


    Business Day
  • Parents Need Peer Education, Too

    Ever since loveLife launched in 1999, the organisation has sought to get South Africans talking about HIV and its underlying sexual dynamics. We therefore applaud initiatives such as the film Protection, which Mara Kardas-Nelson described in her article “Film takes gloves off condom use” (Mail & Guardian, 14-20 Jan 2010) as “a platform to engage with the complexities of sex and masculinity in an age of a harrowing epidemic, changing traditions and shifting gender norms” in our collaborative fight against HIV.

    One of these changing traditions is the role of parents as educator – a role that many parents say they no longer fill; or are ill-equipped to carry out in contemporary society. And yet it is a role that has a pivotal part to play in the fight against HIV.

    Like it or not, parents and guardians exert considerable influence on their children’s sexual behaviour. loveLife's research has consistently found that young people first want to hear about sex from their parents, and want a continuing conversation with them about issues of life, relationships, sex and sexuality. Their primary source of information, however, is from friends (37%) while only 14% report getting their information from a family member (parent, guardian or sibling).

    We cannot afford to let this slide. The South African epidemic shows signs of a decline in HIV prevalence among youth – from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.6% in 2008 among 15 to 24 year olds, according to the HSRC – but these gains need to be accelerated. The role of parents and guardians needs to be reinforced as a behavioural intervention to reduce risk-taking behaviour among our youth.

    To gain a deeper understanding of why parents are not speaking about sex and sexuality to their teens, loveLife conducted qualitative studies with parents in several communities across South Africa last year. South African parents are telling us they are afraid to speak with their teens.

    On the one hand, they raise the perception of young people rejecting traditional values and not respecting theirelders. On the other, they reveal their own self-consciousness at not having all the facts to serve as effective sexuality educators.

    We live in a MXit world where mobile rules and parents feel alienated by the technological hold TV, computers and cell phones have on their kids’ life-worlds. Trying to talk about the birds and bees can be scary enough; doing it when teens are ‘sexting’ each other and accessing pornography on their phones can be downright terrifying.

    And even for those parents who are eager to talk to their children about sex, many are uncertain about when, how and what to communicate.

    The loveLife call centre receives 6 000 calls per month from parents requesting information on HIV/Aids; sexual issues and adolescent development. But, as research has shown, a one-way flow in communications is not enough: for behaviour change to be sustained, communication needs to be horizontal and communities must take ownership of their responses.

    Just as loveLife’s approach has moved beyond safe-sex messaging to a youth development model that holistically addresses the individual, social and structural factors that drive HIV infections, so too do we need parent development.

    That’s why loveLife introduced Born Free Dialogues (BFDs) in 2006 – small community events where parents and youth get the chance to talk. The advantages of this deceptively simple format are huge: not only do the dialogues allow both adults and young people to increase their knowledge levels, together; they also act as the conduit for an ongoing discussion at home. They therefore allow participants – young and old – to internalise topics that have long been taboo in everyday family conversation.

    loveLife has also repositioned its Born Free Dialogues to get parents to confront the societal and structural challenges their children face growing up (rather than simply discussing the ABCs of prevention).

    But, perhaps most importantly, dialogues and discussions such as these are critical to shattering the unrelenting view that talking about sex encourages youth to have sex.

    As boxing coach George Newena tells Mara Kardas-Nelson in the M&G: “To me, by doing that [talking to his kids about Aids and sex], it’s as if I’m promoting my kids to go about sleeping with boys or girls.”

    We need to keep driving home the message that research shows educating young people about sex and condoms “actually leads to a decrease in adolescent sex, unplanned pregnancies and STIs” (AIDS ACTION, 2000).

    By reframing sexuality education as more than just talking about the ABCs, but “as a life-long process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationships and intimacy”; as something that addresses “the biological, socio-cultural, psychological and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from a cognitive, affective and behavioural domain including skills to communicate effectively and make responsible decisions” (The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) definition), we can make parents and guardians feels less awkward about their role as educator.

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