What is Sex Education?
Sex education is the provision of information about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make responsible decisions regarding their sexual health.
It includes comprehensive teaching about human sexuality, including intimate relationships, human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, sexual activity, sexual orientation, gender identity, abstinence, contraception as well as reproductive rights & responsibilities.
Sex education helps young people gain the information, skills & motivation to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality throughout their lives. Developmentally appropriate & evidence-based education about human sexuality & sexual reproduction over time provided by pediatricians, schools, other professionals, and parents is important to help children & adolescents make safe choices about responsible sexual activity, and their reproductive health.
Sex education helps prevent and reduce the risks of adolescent pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections for children & adolescents with and without chronic health conditions and disabilities around the globe.
Research published by the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that when sex education is comprehensive, students feel more in control, make safer choices, and have healthier outcomes, resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases & infections.
According to Chris Castle, Chief of the Section of Health & Education at UNESCO HQs:
“Comprehensive sexuality education aims to equip children and young people with evidence-informed knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others, as well as understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.“
Stats on Teenage sexual activity around the globe:
The following points raise an alarming situation on why sex education is so important for teenagers around the globe:
- About one in five teens report some kind of abuse in a romantic relationship.
- One young person in the United States gets infected with HIV, almost every hour
- Percentage of teens who do not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first have sex: 43 percent of males and 57 percent of females.
- Every year, 900 000 teenage girls become pregnant.
- Half of the teenage pregnancies are within six months of first intercourse. More than 40% adolescent girls get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, although most pregnancies occur in teenagers aged 18 or 19.
- Education about HIV and sexually transmitted disease has led more teenagers to use barrier contraceptives, but only 63% reported having used a condom the last time they had intercourse.
- One in five boys and one in ten girls get their first sexual experience before the age of 15 in some countries of Eastern Europe & Central Asia (EECA)
- The second leading cause of death among teenage girls aged 15 to 19 is complications during pregnancy
- Every day in the EECA region, 520 people contract HIV but only 25% of young people aged 15 to 24 know how infection occurs and how to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Only about half of adolescents (57% of females and 43% of males) received formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex; about four in ten (46% of females and 31% of males) received instruction about where to get birth control.
- As of 2015, fewer than six percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) students aged 13–21 reported that their health classes had included positive representations of LGBT-related topics
Why is Sex Education Important?
In the modern era of smartphones, social media & the worldwide web, teenagers nowadays have a lot more exposure than the previous generations and it is has become more important than ever to educate them on the basics of self-care and sexual health is one of the factors that require the most attention.
Teens, nowadays are extremely social and have much more access to illicit material found on the Internet & in the social circles that surround them. Peer pressure has a lot of influence on teenagers, making them want to try new things and without the proper guidelines & information, they can make mistakes that cost them severely.
Seventy-three percent of adolescents aged 13–17 own a smartphone and can view whatever they require with a single click. Smartphones are probably the go-to place for a large number of teenagers when it comes to finding information regarding their sexuality, personal development, and other similar concerns.
Although smartphones can help provide them with the answers they need, there is also a risk of false information from unreliable sources and an overflow of unnecessary information that a teenager can gain from different sites on the Internet.
Pornography, in other words, shapes kids’ perception & behavior, and this often happens before any adult, teacher or parent, offers any instructions or perspective. It affects self-esteem, as well as provides boys & girls opposite messages that tend to reinforce gender stereotypes and power imbalances. The resulting social dynamic permits, and even somewhat encourages as well as rewards, aggression & abuse.
Similarly, teens who are in abusive relationships are at increased risk of long-term complexities, including poor academic performance, binge drinking & suicide attempts. The emotional impact of unhealthy relationships may also be lasting, increasing the likelihood of future unhappy, violent relationships. These teens often find themselves in a state of mania when it comes to forming meaningful bonds with their partners in the future and can face serious mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, etc.
The lessons teens learn today about respect, healthy relationships, and what is right or wrong will carry over into their future relationships. It’s important to talk with your teen about what does and doesn’t constitute a healthy relationship so that they can be made aware of the consequences of their actions and can take much more informed decisions in their sexual life.
In addition, many other positive results can come out of a comprehensive sex education plan, such as the ability to form and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships, the ability to appreciate one’s own body, and the ability to engage in sexual activity that is mutually consensual and satisfying.
Sex Education in Pakistan:
In Pakistan, sex education is very vital as the number of pedophilia & child rape cases is constantly on the rise. It is very important to educate the children on how to protect themselves from unwanted situations or any form of abuse.
We must empower children to speak up in case of any signs or possibility of abuse. Majority of child abuse cases in Pakistan go unnoticed as the children are too afraid or scared of sharing what they have experienced and this provides the abuser with the power to exploit the vulnerability of the child.
Many child abuse cases reported in Pakistan, involve a close family member who has taken advantage of the child. In most cases, the children are unable to report this problem to their parents or anyone they trust as they do not feel safe and are unaware of the actions that may follow after they have taken the initiative to voice this trauma.
Due to the social stigma associated with sex & victim-blaming in Pakistan, a lot of people are unable to share their negative experiences with their parents, friends, peers, or sexual health experts as they fear the judgment of other people and live a life coping with intense trauma and no outlet for this built-up frustration.
Sexual Problems often become psychological in this case and can affect a person’s ability to form healthy relationships and live a satisfying sexual & marital life in the later stages.
This does not necessarily need to happen when a child hits puberty and undergoes prominent changes in his body but it is a gradual process that needs to be implemented during early childhood when a child is growing up and experiences changes in his body.
Due to this, the child will grow up, not seeking information for his sexual health, believing in all the myths that he comes across, and ultimately fall into unhealthy sexual acts & toxic relationships.
Similarly, toilet training of children should be done by the age of 2.5 years and it is observed that children who receive late toilet training or potty training, face different sexual complexities such as developing unusual sexual fantasies or are attracted to abnormal sexual acts, etc.
The stage of Puberty often brings with it a lot of physical, hormonal, and emotional changes as well as transformations in both men & women that need to be properly educated to both genders in order to avoid any sexual complexities.
When a child reaches 12 or 13 years, parents, teachers & psychologists must create an atmosphere where the child can share his feelings and express himself fully. This will help you understand your children better, know what concerns them and support them throughout every phase of life.
If this process of sharing fact-based information is hindered, a majority of people will face sexual problems later on in life just because of the misconceptions that surround them.
Unfortunately, a large population in our society relies on the advice of a “Hakeem” rather than seeking help from a trained specialist, due to the conventional school of thought that “Hakeems” were the first to cater to sexual problems and introduce sexual development.
Parents, Teachers, Psychologists, and reliable resources need to take this responsibility of sharing factual information to these teenagers so that they can be enabled to take better care of their physical & mental health.
Age-appropriate sex education is vital and starts at the early stages of a child’s life. Training a child from 1.5 years to 5 years old makes them sensitive about their body parts as they are receiving the required information and this allows the child to save himself from any sexual abuse as well as enables him to cross each developmental stage of life with a positive mindset in his relationships, personal & social life.
It is very important to make your child understand his sexuality and be confident about his body as this psychological nourishment will lead them to develop a sense of self-love, helping them grow into healthy members of society.
Problems that occur:
Following problems can occur when highlighting the issue of sex education in Pakistan:
- Misinformation shared by different groups of people without having a reliable source to back their statements
- Social, Societal & Religious Taboos that play a role in stopping the flow of information to the general public
- Lack of knowledge in parents & teachers, as they are not aware of the importance of sex education in children.
- Different stereotypes in our society make discussing this topic a very serious ethical problem
- Unavailability of comprehensive strategies & plans to ensure sex education across different institutes as well as lack of various platforms that help promote sex education in Pakistan
- Various cultural norms that prohibit sex education while labeling it as a socially unacceptable act
- Poor financial conditions faced by a majority of people who do not have the resources to consult a specialist in case of any related issues
- Conventional schools of thought that have been outdated in the modern world yet are still prevailing in Pakistan
Nurturing a child in the right manner will help them live a fulfilling life and can prove to be very effective in delivering the desired positive outcomes. We need to realize that sex education is a basic guideline of living a sexually healthy life, which is a fundamental right of every person, and therefore, we should aim to provide every teenager with this necessary life skill so that they can take control over their lives while managing their sexual health in a thoughtful & responsible manner
By taking a few simple steps & paying more attention, we can make the world a better place for future generations, and hopefully, they will reflect on this and do the same for generations to come.
Receiving care from a sex-positive therapist who can identify underlying problems and offer evidence-based treatment strategies can help your child gain confidence while developing an understanding of their preferences, emotional needs & boundaries which in turn helps improve their relationships in future.
In case you have any questions or concerns regarding these issues, please get in touch with a certified sexologist in Karachi as soon as possible.
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