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Guardian: Uganda condemns sex education for 10-year-olds as 'morally wrong' (2)

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In our part of South Asia, particularly the rural societies in particular and the people in general also are not much appreciative of exposing the children and adolescent to sex education at a rather early age. This reminds me of an incident of about 15 years back. There was a children festival going on under which there was a book fair. In the book fair, there were booths taken by private, govt and NGO publishers. When a mother was buying books for her 10 year old daughter from an NGO booth, a book on reproductive health was given free in the shopping bag. The mother did not notice while leaving the booth. After a while she came back with an angry face, to know why this other book on RH was given, that too without her consent or knowledge. When the people from NGO said that it was absolutely free, then she answered, "I know what I need, I know what to tell or what not to tell my daughter. You don't give me things unless I ask for it."

In our country, particularly the girls discover the issues of sex, reproductive health and maternity through their own selves i.e. the physical change in their own body as they start menstruating (I feel this part is somewhat same globally). Regarding having knowledge and information on the above issues, sources are very often friends, female relatives of same age or age group, elder sister with whom the age gap is not much; The lateral communication or exchange between the girls of same age or same age group tend to base on incomplete, incorrect information, mostly blinded/biased by curiosity, physical and mental excitement. It sometimes make them fall prey to sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy and then abortion secretly done more to save the honour of the girl and the girl's families than saving the girl's life. Sadly enough, when it gets out of hand, some of the girls have nowhere to go to other than other cities or brothels, as the family becomes unable or unwilling to bear the burden.

Sometimes mothers and elderly female relatives become good aides to help the girls address/handle the physical changes. The communication which takes place between the parties is verbal and follows the legacy of experiential learning from one generation to the other.

On the other hand, for male adolescents, sources of information and knowledge are very often friends, male relatives of same age or age group; The lateral communication or exchange is predominant between the boys of same age or same age group which again tends to base on incomplete, incorrect information, mostly blinded/biased by curiosity, physical and mental excitement. But we don't see much role of elder brothers or elderly male relatives in knowledge dissemination. Fantasizing with male friends about having sex with a girl and executing the fantasy, just like a dream come true, as situation is in favour, seem common among the less educated or uneducated adolescent boys. As we know, if a girl is victimized by a boy or some boys, the offender/s cannot be taken to task in these male-dominated societies unless the girl's family is very resourceful in terms of money, power and contacts.

Another thing to be noted is historically South Asia and Africa have inherited oral cultures. Literacy being one of the major issues here, I feel we should have examined the existing modes and lines of communication before or rather than imposing books on SRH on them.

Thus, for girls, lateral and vertical oral communication and for boys, lateral oral communication are into play. I wonder if we could think about doing something considering the above issues.

Date of HIFA message: 
Thursday, October 26, 2017
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Hasnain Sabih Nayak
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Hasnain Sabih Nayak is an Independent Consultant & Adjunct Faculty, School of Public Health, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). hasnain_toi AT yahoo.com

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