Sometime back there was a huge uproar when the president launched the adolescent access to contraception campaign, and now that the Reproductive health bill is on the second reading on the floor of the senate we see the exact sentiments being stirred. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is one of the components of the bill. I am having a hard time understanding why anyone would be against Comprehensive Sexuality Education. How can anyone be against equipping his or her child with comprehensive information to navigate this very interesting aspect of our lives?
I have been in many a plane rides. Every time you enter an airplane, a nice lady or gentleman comes to the front and shows you the safety features of the plane. They very nicely show you the exits and tell you what to do in case of a plane crash. To this day I listen intently, every time. It doesn’t matter how many times I will be on a plane and how many times I will see that demonstration, every time I will listen. I pray to God that I am never in a plane crash. But I listen, because if God forbid I am ever in one, I want the information on how to safely wear that jacket to be ingrained in my brain that I can do it with my eyes closed or even panicked as hell. Now I do not think the information the airhost/ess shares on the safety plane features encourages any pilot to crash the plane or any of the passengers to want to experience a crash.
Same goes for seat belts in cars, I do not see any drivers crashing their cars just because they know their car has one and they know how to use them. But just assume for the sake of it, your car has safety belts, but no one ever told you how to wear one or why it is useful and you got into an accident, I can bet you while safety belts saves lives yours will most likely not save yours, why? Because you most likely wont be wearing one, why? Because no one taught you how to wear one. This is exactly what we are asking for when we say young people should not have access to comprehensive sexuality information. We are asking that no one ever teaches them how to use to the safety belts of life. We are of course hoping that they never get into an accident, and never need one, even when we know eventually they will need one.
So maybe why we are seeing Kenyans up in arms against Comprehensive Sexuality Education is the misconception of what comprehensive sexuality education really is. There are parents who are genuinely scared that sexuality education is where the children are taught HOW to have sex full with practical’s and homework.
So maybe what we need to do is unpack what comprehensive education really is and what it entails. Comprehensive Sexuality Education is evidence-based comprehensive education on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality to enable young people to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality. It includes learning about our bodies, where babies come from, what sex is and what it isn’t, relationships and consent, sexually transmitted infections, sexual abuse, condoms and other forms of contraception (remember the seat belt) early and or unwanted pregnancies, how to safely explore none-penetrative aspects of our own sexuality, abstinence and eventually happy, safe sexual lives when we are ready (others argue after the age of 18 while others yet say after marriage). The information should be packaged in an age appropriate messaging and in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the adolescent, appropriate direction and guidance in sexual and reproductive health matters. It should include the good, the bad and the ugly. The education here should provide adequate tools for one to navigate safely the ins and outs of their sexuality and pointing them in the right direction when they need services.
Comprehensive sexuality education is important because when this information and services are made available to young people it helps them understand their sexuality and protect them from unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted diseases and subsequent risk of infertility. It also promotes good healthy, mutually respectable relationships and safe sex for young adults. This education also encourages young men to respect women’s self-determination and to share responsibility with women in matters of sexuality and reproduction.
I know most parents at this point are hoping that all we include in that curriculum is the gory details of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy hoping that this way we will have sufficiently scared the poor beings into eternal abstinence. Well, while this strategy semi-worked in the past it won’t work now. What with all the access to information that young people have on the Internet and on television (some not so correct), if you give half information the curious minds will search elsewhere. You want their source to be credible and known. You want them to trust this source and to come back for clarification should they feel confused. But if you close that door and make room only for abstinence conversation, all other curious questions and actions will happen, but away from responsible adult guidance.