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Comprehensive education

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 27 December 2019 00:00

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is part of education. CSE is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.

Youth receive little attention in public policy discussions because of cultural and political sensitivity. In Sri Lanka, traditional, religious and family values designed to protect young people have restricted sexual and reproductive health education for young people, especially within the education system. 

While Sri Lanka has a youth population of over 4.4 million between the ages of 15 and 29 years, the National Youth Health Survey conducted in 2013 identified that close to 50% of young people have limited knowledge about sexual and reproductive health.

Likewise, according to statistics from the Family Health Bureau, while teenage pregnancy in Sri Lanka is relatively low at 5.2%, subnational disparities exist with a rate of 89% in some localities. Further, the Stigma Assessment of People Living with HIV conducted in 2017 indicates that HIV prevalence in the country is 0.01% yet new infections are seemingly increasing, especially among young people.

Sexuality education and family planning are both very important components for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. CSE goes beyond simply providing information on sexual health and equips young people with critical life skills and an understanding of fundamental values such as human rights and gender equality.

CSE does not make young people more promiscuous but has been proven to help them develop self-esteem and life skills that encourage critical thinking, clear communication, responsible decision-making, and respectful behaviour. 

Too many young people receive confusing and conflicting information about relationships and sex, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. This has led to an increasing demand from young people for reliable information, which prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life. When delivered well, CSE responds to this demand, empowering young people to make informed decisions about relationships and sexuality and navigate a world where gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) still pose serious risks to their health and well-being. Equally, a lack of high-quality, age- and developmentally-appropriate sexuality and relationship education may leave children and young people vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation.

CSE plays a crucial role in addressing the health and well-being of children and young people. Applying a learner-centred approach, CSE not only provides children and young people with age-appropriate and phased education on human rights, gender equality, relationships, reproduction, sexual behaviours risks and prevention of ill health, but also provides an opportunity to present sexuality with a positive approach, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility and reciprocity.

Sexuality education has the most impact when school-based programs are complemented with the involvement of parents and teachers, training institutes and youth-friendly services. It is high time that the tired and outdated line of “corrupting children” is dismissed and sex education gets the focus that it deserves. 

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