Sex education – a must in this eraFriday, September 10, 2021
One of the worrying side effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic is the likelihood of children being easily exposed to undesirable sexual experiences. Already, the experts are saying that because children are spending more time at home or in the streets, unsupervised, there has been an increased incidence of sexual molestation not only by adults – including family members – but also their peers.
There is a well-known saying in the Caribbean which states that parents “should tie the heifer but loose the bull”. This, in essence, means that, while every precaution should be taken to ensure that a “girl child” does not get involved in any sexual activity, it is all right to let boys sow their wild oats.
This cultural practice has led to many girls being ignorant and naïve about sex, while the boys, who gain a great deal of experience but remain ignorant to some, if not most, of its deleterious consequences, oftentimes become unwilling fathers and are most susceptible to sexually infectious diseases and prone to having very little respect for girls and women.
In today's Jamaica, several surveys, both formal and informal, have revealed that a large number of boys and girls get their so-called sex education from their peers, pornography, via reading or viewing stuff on television, as well as social media, corrupting adults, and what can be referred to as “talk pon di corner”.
Much of this information is oftentimes misleading and full of myths; for example, many youngsters believe that a girl cannot get pregnant by having sex in a standing position and that having sex with a virgin will cure a venereal disease. These are just some of the fallacies out there. The consequences of these and many others floating around in the minds of impressionable youth are well known and documented.
There is also the economic factor, as many more youngsters are going to bed hungry because their breadwinners have lost their jobs or are hard-pressed to find enough resources to provide three meals per day. In this setting, both boys and girls turn to some form of hustling, which may include windscreen wiping, drug pushing, scamming, and prostitution. Against this background, it may well be that, in the months ahead, the rate of increase in juvenile delinquency and teenage pregnancy, as well as the spread of sexually transmitted infections will overwhelm the nation.
While not wanting to sound like an alarmist, this writer believes that greater emphasis must be placed on formal sex education, which should be taught in schools as a part of the curriculum. In Jamaica, sex education is not, for the most part, taught formally, but some aspects of it are included in a variety of subject areas. The fact is that this controversial topic does not go down well with a great deal of Jamaicans, who are Christians or have Christian beliefs, and so they question, for example, the age at which children should start receiving such education, the amount of detail that is revealed, and the topics dealing with human sexual behaviour.
However, let us not fool ourselves, children, on their own, can easily access sources from which to 'edify' themselves, and there is the rub, because pornography does excite the imagination and will lead to experimentation, whether by way of self-gratification or involvement with “dirty old men” (including perverts and stepfathers) or “cougars” – adult women who go after young boys/men.
When all is said and done, what should be uppermost in the minds of well-thinking people is: What are the lasting benefits of an effective sex education programme, whether formal or informal?
To begin with, parents and guardians, as well as mentors and community influencers, should be persuaded to participate in such a national programme, which, of necessity, would include the responsible use of social media and other technological platforms.
Some of these benefits may be seen as reducing the risky behaviours associated with unprotected sex, and ensuring that people can make informed decisions about their sexual activities. It may also encourage control over the body, for example, abstinence, to protect oneself, especially in these challenging times when social distancing has become imperative.
The novel coronavirus pandemic and all the attendant changes and restrictions has caused many youngsters to become depressed due to feelings of hopelessness. This creates a fertile ground for young people to seek diversions or experiences that may help them to escape, even briefly, from the harsh realities they face on a daily basis. And to compound the situation, because of the reduction in face-to-face schooling, which does not allow for meaningful guidance and counselling to take place, many wayward or dysfunctional students are left to the mercy of the oftentimes corrupting environments in their homes and the wider communities.
Needless to say, the case for formal sex education is impatient of debate. In a study entitled 'Sex Education and the Timing of Sexual Initiation among Jamaican Young Women', the following observations and findings were made: “The sexual and reproductive health of youth has been identified as one of the most important health and development problems facing developing countries. Receiving information from parents was not significantly associated with a delay in sex. Non-regular religious service attendance and non-religious service attendance was associated with sex at earlier ages, while females in middle and high wealth categories were significantly less likely to have early sex.” It was concluded, therefore, that school-based sex education for girls is an important tool in the delay of sex.
Recently, there was a woman who appeared on a local television programme who declared that at 25 years old she had had five children for five different babyfathers, none of whom were helping in the rearing of the children – financially and otherwise. What was even more shocking was the disclosure that she was now a grandmother.
To put it bluntly, irresponsible sexual behaviour based on ignorance can be very deleterious to national development, hence the need for sex education to be taken seriously by the State, as well as every well-thinking citizen.
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time in Jamaican media for the past 45 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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