The Guardian, Wednesday 15 June 2016 18.00 AEST
There are 1.8 billion people aged 10 to 24 today, but how many of those are getting comprehensive sexuality education? And why, in 2016, are there still so many taboos around sex? Liz Ford discusses what young people should be taught, when sex education should start and asks, what does comprehensive sexuality education actually mean?
She visits the Women Deliver Conference in Denmark, where 5,000 delegates meet to discuss the reproductive health, rights and wellbeing of women and girls. There, she speaks to 18-year-old Dennis Glasgow, a peer educator from the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, who discusses the importance of diminishing the myths around sex by talking about it.
Doortje Braeken, senior adviser on adolescents and young people at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, reveals that 66% of girls don’t know what menstruation is when they have their first period.
Lucy Emmerson is coordinator of the UK’s Sex Education Forum. She says that, with good quality sex and relationship education from a trained educator, young people are less likely to start having sex at a young age, and less likely to become teenage parents. The Sex Education Forum has developed a curriculum framework that shows the kind of questions relevant to children at each stage of their development.
Remmy Shawa helps manage sex and reproductive health at Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa. He talks about the difficulties for parents in being open with children about sexuality when they can’t find the language to talk about it.
Anne Philpott, founder of The Pleasure Project, emphasises the need to convey in public health messages that sex is about enjoyment. She talks about the ease of young people’s access to pornography – essentially bad sex education, she says – and the need to discuss the stereotypes it presents, so that young people understand it’s not real life. And, Philpott says, with AIDS still the highest killer of adolescent girls in Africa, effectively spreading the message of safe sex is a top priority.