Youth around the world deserve better Sex Ed

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Sabrina smiling, holding ukeleleMy name is Sabrina and I am a 20-year-old who supports the 2015 Ontario Sexual Education curriculum update.

Why do I support a curriculum change that does not directly impact my education? Because I can thank dirty jokes in TV shows, heated scenes in movies or random Google searches for the majority of my sexual education. I feel like the subtle jokes that keep adults entertained during Disney films has exposed me to sex more than my classes ever did.

It is a problem when students are leaving high school not knowing much about sex, family planning, sexually transmitted infections/diseases, or reproductive health because they were simply not taught. However, it is even scarier knowing that the media outlets we are getting our information from are often inaccurate and scandalized.

How is it that the last time our Ontario sexual education was updated was in 1998, but other subjects such as mathematics, sciences, and English have been revised multiple times since then? This means I have supposedly received the same sexual and reproductive education that was in place since I was a 1-year-old, but had up-to-date classes on mathematics and sciences. The way society portrays and talks about sex has changed over the years so why hasn’t the education on the subject kept pace? Youth should not be dependent on potentially harmful and inaccurate information available on the Internet for their sexual education.

I think the changes to the Ontario Sexual Education curriculum are a positive thing because it’s important for youth to discuss topics like consent and rape culture. Sexual violence impacts people of all ages and everyone must be aware of their right to say no and the resources/services that can help them.

As a university student, I can attest to the fact that rape culture on campuses is a very real and scary thing that is not talked about enough. Starting conversations about consent, victim blaming and victim shaming before students leave high school is vital to diminish rape culture on university campuses.

We must work together to end the stigma associated with sexual and reproductive health education. My friends and I didn’t have the best access to the information we needed but we know we’re not alone. Youth in developing nations are also kept from accessing this information.

Sex ed for boys and girls in developing nations

It feels as though youth around the world are kept in the dark on this subject, and although we all share that in common, I know that the barriers to accessing this education are significantly different in developing nations.  And unfortunately, lack of knowledge for these youth can have detrimental consequences.

In a rural community in Bangladesh, it would not be uncommon for a 14-year-old girl to be forced to drop out of school and into an early marriage which could then lead to premature motherhood. For this girl, lack of education forces her to potentially continue the cycle of poverty. Education empowers girls, and sexual and reproductive health education is vital for girls to make informed decisions about their bodies and future. Not knowing about reproductive health services is in fact only one of 3 significant barriers that girls face.

Click on the video below to see the 3 barriers women and girls face when trying to access reproductive health services:

Though Canada is not immune from issues like teen pregnancy or even child marriage, the lived reality for girls Plan International Canada is working with is generally quite different. In the developing world, adolescent girls die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth – 70,000 will die this year alone, making pregnancy and childbirth the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls worldwide.

See also: Why empowering adolescent girls to exercise their rights to healthcare can help save lives

All youth across the globe should have access to accurate information and opportunities to have safe spaces to carry out conversations about stigmatized topics. Everyone has the right to health and that includes sexual and reproductive health education.

Help Plan International Canada change the birth story and improve access to lifesaving healthcare services and sexual and reproductive health education by endorsing the statement below.

I stand with Canada to change the birth story because I believe that every adolescent girl, woman and child has the right to be healthy and to live a life free of discrimination.

Guest blogger | 4 years ago | « back