A detailed education program that covers all aspect of sexuality is based on the idea that young people have the right to be informed about their sexuality and to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. From all indications, there are a number of confusions about sexuality education, one of which is defining it as “sex education”. The word “sex” is used in our culture to mean sexual intercourse. “Sexuality” is a much broader word and its meanings include sexual values and decision-making, biology, emotions, gender identity, sex roles, relationships and feelings. It’s often difficult to talk with children and young people in general about sexuality, in part because most people didn’t have parents who discussed it with them. Therefore, they lack models of positive sexuality educators. Also, sexuality education programs continue to come under attack by supporters of abstinence-only education because they may believe some of the following myths.
Myth: Students in nursery and primary are too young to need information about sexuality.
Fact: In every subject, students are given a foundation in the early school years that is expanded upon in later years. Children are often curious about issues related to sexuality, they are constantly picking up sexual messages, from the media, movies, romance novels, their peers, etc. and many of them do not promote healthy sexuality. Children need accurate, age-appropriate information, they also need to learn the correct names of all their body parts so that they can tell someone if they have been sexually abused.
Myth: If you talk to kids about sex they will go out and experiment.
Fact: Children who are well informed and comfortable talking about sexuality with their parents are also the least likely to have intercourse when they are adolescents. Research clearly shows that comprehensive sexuality education programs can help young people delay involvement in sexual activities and sexual initiation. Numerous studies in peer reviewed literature, including a comprehensive study by the World Health Organization, have demonstrated that sex education programs that teach young people about both abstinence and contraception do not increase sexual activity nor lead youth to engage in sex at an earlier age. In fact, detailed evaluations of comprehensive sexuality education programs have shown that these programs can help young people to delay sexual initiation. For those who have already had sex, these programs have been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency of sexual intercourse and the number of sexual partners and in helping young people to use condoms and/or contraception more consistently. Knowledge does not lead to inappropriate behavior, whereas a lack of information or misinformation from the wrong source poses greater risks.
Myth: Sexuality education disregards values and morals.
Fact: A comprehensive sexuality education incorporates values and cultural sensitivity. Quality comprehensive sexuality education supports a rights-based approach in which values such as respect, acceptance, tolerance, equality, empathy, and reciprocity are inextricably linked to universally agreed human rights. It also provides young people with the opportunity to explore and define their own individual values as well as those of their families and communities.
Myth: If I don’t feel completely comfortable talking to my students about sexual issues, it’s better not to say anything at all.
Fact: It is quite common to be uncomfortable talking about sexuality. It might be awkward in the beginning, but you should do it anyway. The role of schools is to support and complement the role of the parents by providing a safe and supportive learning environment and the tools and materials to deliver good quality sexuality education. Thankfully, sexuality education program is catching on and parents’ responses show that majority support the provision of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Educator training is an effective method for developing comfort and skill.
Myth: Comprehensive sexuality education doesn’t address abstinence.
Fact: Comprehensive Sexuality education stresses abstinence as the best and most effective method of avoiding STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancy. They also provide young people with information about contraception and condoms to help them protect their health and lives when they do become sexually active. Research shows that programs that discuss both abstinence and contraception are most effective in helping young people develop a healthy understanding about sexuality. These programs are more effective at helping young people delay sexual initiation than abstinence-only programs.