By Sadie Syke
Sex education. Most people have an idea what it means, but how many people actually received an education? And how many received the right education?
Sex education includes, but is not limited to: learning about the human body, sexual organs, sexual hygiene, sexually transmitted infections, reproductive rights and health, consent, and an all-round healthy sexual life.
There’s a lot of misinformation regarding sex and sexuality in our society that leads to harmful practices and maybe even fatal consequences.
A research done by the Guttmacher Institute in 2012 showed that 1 in every 7 pregnancies in Nigeria ended in an induced abortion for the year reviewed. It was also noted that 1 in 4 pregnancies were unintended.
Avert stated that for the year 2015 there were 220,000 new HIV infections, giving Nigeria 60% of all new HIV infections in Western and Central Africa. As at 2015, there was an estimated 3.2 million people living with HIV in Nigeria.
According to WARIF, in 2014, 1 in 4 women reported that they had been sexually abused in childhood with 70% of these women reporting more than one incident of sexual violence. Also, 24.8% of females aged 18 – 24 years experienced sexual abuse prior to the age of 18.
In a poll carried out by NOI Polls in conjunction with Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER) it was noted that about 31% of the 1,0000 adults polled personally knew a victim of child rape in their local communities.
These statistics are alarming and something needs to be done to change the situation, this is where sex education comes in.
Sex education is an important part of learning and it should begin as early as possible. First of all, toddlers need to be taught the proper names for body parts, the words penis and vulva should be used as often as nose, eyes and ears. The aim of this is to remove any shame around these words and open up the conversation.
Parents need to treat children with respect when it comes to their bodies, if a child is hesitant about someone bathing them, Parents should show more concern. Time should be taken out to understand why the child is refusing and explain to the child why certain things need to be done at certain times. The aim of this is to make the child feel heard and open up the lines of communication even further.
Children should be taught about puberty; what changes might happen soon and that it likely will be different for everyone. Children should be taught about consent, that no is no and yes is yes. They should be told that they should report anybody who tries to touch them inappropriately or coerce them into sexual acts to the appropriate authorities. They should also be taught to be respectful of other people’s bodies.
It is important that at this stage that parents don’t react negatively should children ask them about sexual acts seen on the internet or TV; punishing a child for viewing such media usually does no good, instead parents should explain to children that the sexual acts they saw were between two consenting adults and usually not a true depiction of life.
By the time children become adolescents and teens they have the ability to understand most things about sex and sexuality. This is not a time to scare them or tell them folktales about dying or going blind as a result of sexual acts. At this difficult stage, it is more important than ever to maintain an open door policy, it’s important for parents to remind children that they are there for them, to answer any questions and that they will not be judged for asking them.
It is extremely important for adolescents and teens to learn about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, rape and consent. This is the time to talk to them about the difference between the physical urges they may be feeling and the emotional aspects of sex.
It is sometimes erroneously believed that informing older children and teens about their bodies and giving them the tools to protect themselves might lead them to “waywardness” but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s been noted incidentally that children who are more educated about sex are less likely to find themselves in dangerous situations or suffer the consequences that come with unsafe sex such as sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
Sex and sexuality are a part of our daily life and should not be treated as a taboo topic. Proper, well –rounded sex education is necessary at home and in schools all around the country.