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Traditionally, adolescents in many cultures were not given any information on sexual matters, with the discussion of these issues being considered taboo. Such instruction, as was given, was traditionally left to a child’s parents, and often this was put off until just before a child’s marriage. The outbreak of AIDS has given a new sense of urgency to sex education. Burt defined sex education as the study of the characteristics of beings: a male and female.
Such characteristics make up the person’s sexuality. Sexuality is an important aspect of the life of a human being and almost all people, including children, want to know about it. Sex education includes all the educational measures which – regardless of the particular method used – may center on sex. Leepson sees sex education as instruction in various physiological, psychological and sociological aspects of sexual response and reproduction. Evidence shows that a combination of comprehensive sex education and access to birth control appears to decrease the rates of unintended pregnancies among teenagers. A meta-analysis that compared comprehensive sex education programs with abstinence-only programs found that abstinence-only programs did not reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, but rather may have increased it.
By emphasizing rights and gender issues, these programs help reduce gender-based violence and bullying, promote safe schools, empower young people to advocate for their own rights, and advance gender equality. Few sexual health interventions are designed with input from adolescents. The 2007 study found that « No comprehensive program hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex, results that many people fear. It is taught over several years, introducing age-appropriate information consistent with the evolving capacities of young people. It includes scientifically accurate, curriculum-based information about human development, anatomy and pregnancy.
And it goes beyond information, to encourage confidence and improved communication skills. Human rights issues, gender equality and gender roles should be integrated into every aspect of these discussions. Sexual abuse, gender-based violence and harmful practices should also be discussed. Comprehensive sexuality education « enables young people to make informed decisions about their sexuality and health. These programmes build life skills and increase responsible behaviors, and because they are based on human rights principles, they help advance human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of young people. Sex education may be taught informally, such as when someone receives information from a conversation with a parent, friend, religious leader, or through the media.