What should sex ed look like?

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Educate your children about sex. Photo: Frank Herholdt
Educate your children about sex. Photo: Frank Herholdt

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.

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