Sex Education : Why it matters
Past couple of days on 13th February, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the international day of condom. Watching the news with parents, there is an uncomfortable tension that arose as the news of the occasion that marked the celebration was broadcasted on TV. And with its catchy and controversial theme of the year “ Safer is fun ” which made it worse. This reminded me how sex conversations are a no go in most of the Rwandan families and social settings. Sex is literally the last topic a group of people could talk about. Unless they are friends, online discussions, conferences about the topic, or lastly the minority who finds nothing wrong having the conversations. When it comes to educating people about sexual health in general, the situation is not that far as the silence on the topic. In schools’ academic program, sex is approached as just a biological process like fertilization or fermentation with no regards to other necessary factors about it. There are are a lot of myths, curiosity, restrictions and misinformation about sex.
There are different causes of the issue which are mainly reflected in the social behaviors rooted in the culture and personalities of Rwandans. The fact that majority of generation were raised with “Sex is a sin”, received abstinence- education and the sense of refraining any controversial conversation embodied in Rwandans are the ones among top causes. Well, every system and practices has their induced impact so is this structure in place.
But what if??? We reverse the ways of doing things and create a different culture:
We alter the narrative around sexual related information and our attitude in approaching those dialogues in our community. We create a room for open and honest conversations in our societies around reproductive healthcare and rights. We break the stigma and the taboo narrative around sex. We build a knowledge culture to equip teenagers and young people with accurate and reliable information that will facilitate them to make informed decisions for their actions. What are the impacts that are projected to be reaped from its implication? Are they positive or negative?
First and Foremost , to scope the term” sex education” as it is a broad term and can be possibly misunderstood if one is not familiar. Science daily defines it as education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behavior (Daily Science, 2017). Wikipedia’s description does deviate far from the former and refer to it as “ the instruction of issues relating to human sexuality together with emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy and sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive health, rights, safe sex, birth control and lastly sexual abstinence.
Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) will equip the receivers with information, that will enhance their knowledge, skills and nurture them with right perspectives towards their health and values as well. When it comes to this kind of knowledge, you find that teenagers are informed by their peers who on the hand also might be the product of deception but only has some prior real life experience or or are considered more informed by their fellows. Teenagers possess prevalent, confusing and conflicting (and mostly negative) messages about their sexuality and mostly received from different sources which are inaccurate, false or based on the teller’s belief. With this age appropriate, culturally suitable and scientifically approved comprehensive education, the learners will be equipped with correct concepts which are validated by experts to reinforce respected social and sexual relationships that are backed by understanding of their rights, expectations and limitations. For example, I have seen situations where either boys and girls are treated badly in relationships and they just automatically assume that is how things are and they have to fight throughout it, endure every obstacle to be stronger and more experienced. Some others believe that being in a relationship is owning another person and hence acquiring full control to manage parts of their lives. With this kind of comprehension introduced to people at an early age, it will make them realize their power where it ends and it starts , their rights and most importantly their choices and ways in which it will affect them and others as well.
Still on knowledge, when delivered well, CSE will train learners with necessary proficiency to prepare them for puberty. Apparently there is a knowledge gap between what adolescents learn from the biology classes to the experiences they encounter.two out of three girls in some countries have no idea of what is happening to them when they begin menstruating (UNESCO, 2018) hence they are posed to vulnerability of some challenges such as harassment, STD s, unintended pregnancy and many more.
Reduce inequality among the teenager and adolescent in accessing Comprehensive Sex Education Apparently there is a case of inequality in terms of what the teenagers receive across the country receive, based on the different criteria they found themselves into. By implementing a national wide program, it will leave out no Rwandan adolescents in enhancing the knowledge about the matter.
Empowerment against sexual violence and other sexual assaults
This type of education will have an impact in clearing up the confusion and the dilemma on what constitutes sexual assaults and what doesn’t. In receiving CSE, learners, who are not limited to adolescents will dive deeper into learning about sexual exploitation, abuse and, recognize them as early as possible before when they occur. This will facilitate them to safeguard themselves as much as possible and identify and access rightful necessary resources to seek help from. This will allow boys and girls who through assaults to know identify the occurrence and speak up to the rightful authorities.
Sex Education, will also train the right the authorities ( Parents, Police, local leaders, therapist) with the proper behaviors to approach these cases with, facilitate in dissolving the stigma tied to rape and eliminate the distrust in the systems. For instance, In Nigeria, it was reported that the girls who announced rape cases are re victimized by the media making them responsible for their trauma and sometimes shamed (Nwabueze and Oduah, 2015)
Sex Education also has the potential to raise awareness on right mentality so as to uproot the wrong attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence.A typical example is Ujamaa Africa in Kenya, which focuses on teaching high school boys to respect women and on proper interventions in sexual assault cases, conducted research on investigating their learner’s understanding at the start of the course. Here is the result from the study: 63.1% of boys agreed that in a situation of a woman wearing a sexy outfit, that is clearly an invitation to men to have sex with her, also 58.5% of the participants believed that when a woman said ”No” to sex that she just mean ” Maybe”, so one needs to be convincing. And many believed believe that it was reasonable to rape a girl if she is out on her own in the dark, or has been treated to an expensive date (Newtactics.org, n.d.)The report confirms that as they underwent through the training, this statistics reduced and there was a drastic change of mindset. The impact of Ujamaa Africa reflects what can be achieved with the establishment of educational programs to youths and members of the community to educate them about the prevention of sexual violence, holding each other ‘s accountable and vulnerability reduction.
As it can be seen there are a number of benefits that are entailed to the Comprehensive Sex Education. But further research is yet to be conducted on different factors on providing this type of knowledge to Rwandans but with its context in consideration. With the benefits mentioned above, there is still a gap to address and that is how it can be implemented in Rwanda and further dimensions to be considered in evaluating the beneficial part of it. Because After All, this is the country where it is a heated debate whether to advise teenagers to use contraceptives such as condoms or not because many believe it promotes sexual activities.