In Africa, few young people receive adequate preparation for their sexuality. This leaves them potentially vulnerable to coercion, abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections including HIV. This is exacerbated by the silence and the disapproval of open discussion of sexual matters by adults, including parents and teachers, at a period when it is most needed; Sex is still taboo. Globally, while knowledge about HIV and safer sexual behavior among young people has improved, only 34 percent of young people have comprehensive and accurate knowledge of HIV (UNAIDS 2010). Thus, there is an urgent need to address the gap in knowledge about sexuality.
Then what can we say is Sexuality Education? Comprehensive Sexuality Education is defined as a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about one’s identity, sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, intimacy, body image, human right and gender roles. It addresses the biological, socio-cultural, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from the cognitive domain, the affective domain, and the behavioral domain, including the skills to communicate effectively and make responsible decisions. In addition, Comprehensive Sexuality education goals are to increase knowledge, explain and clarify feelings, values and attitudes, develop skills, promote and sustain risk reducing behaviors, uncontrolled sexual activity that has several consequences such as unintended pregnancy, STI’s, HIV/AIDS, abortion, uncompleted education among others. Likewise, comprehensive sexuality education works to develop critical thinking skills in young people which in turn, enable them to challenge social norms that may put them at risk, and to develop gender equitable attitudes and behaviors. Comprehensive Sexuality Education attracts both opposition and support, but we must avoid leaving people behind.
It is critical to build consensus on the need for sexuality education by encouraging youth representation by various organisations and stakeholders to play a role in developing the curriculum base on their need. Parents and parents association should communicate more openly and honestly about sexuality and teachers and school should lead students toward a better understanding of sexuality through discovery and learning. Researchers and educational professional should help to write effective sexuality education curriculum that give clear, consistent message based on accurate information, that is focused on reducing sexual behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy, STIs/ HIV, that is specific to age and culture and have a theoretical framework proven to change health behaviors. Religious and traditional leaders should also show support for sexuality education and reach their audience. The Media should also sensitize youth on safe sexuality and promote healthy living. Not left behind are people living with HIV, sexual minorities must be given avenue to raise their voice and address their specific need. Policy makers and government must support, train in the specific skills the teachers, ensure continuity and consistency and support school based sexuality education.
There is strong evidence that the protective effects of Comprehensive Sexuality Education on sexual and reproductive health are significant for youth especially for girls. Many framework as ICPD plan of action, the Continental Policy Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, the Maputo Plan of Action for the Operationalization of the Continental Policy Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, CARMMA (Campaign On accelerated reduction of maternal mortality in Africa) that support and encourage every country to include comprehensive sexuality education as a key strategy to promote safe sexual and reproductive health.
Thus, I strongly believe that Sexuality Education is a right and it is right.
Written by Bewa Joannie