#India- Sex Education is Effective for Unschooled Teens


By Swapna Majumdar

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And that can be life-saving in a place such as Gujarat, India, where 40 percent of brides are under 20 and anemia is a major threat. A three-year awareness campaign shows how much can be changed by education and information.

Indian girl with hands behind her back

 

Credit: Kara Newhouse on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

NEW DELHI (WOMENSENEWS)–When Nandi Jhala got married eight years ago at the age of 11 she didn’t know the man she married.

She’d left her village school in the western part of Gujarat state at 8, after a couple of years of schooling, and understood nothing about pregnancy or reproductive and sexual health.

All she knew was that, like her elder sister, she would soon have to produce children.

So far, though, she’s defied the odds. She has no children yet.

“I am only 19 and I know I should not have children until my body is capable of childbearing,” Jhala toldWomen’s eNews. “Also, I want to plan my family, unlike my older sister who already has three children. I have conveyed this to my husband.”

Jhala added that she has also started looking after her health. “I know now how to maintain menstrual hygiene,” she said.

That information can be life-saving for a young woman such as Jhala, who lives in the Indian state of Gujarat, where about 40 percent of brides are under the age of 20.

Six thousand adolescent mothers die each year in India, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (2005-06). At present, the maternal mortality rate in India is 212 per 100,000 live births, whereas the country’s target is to reduce it to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015.

Jhala has benefited from a government program called Mamta Taruni (Adolescent Girls), which is run by the state government in conjunction with the Center for Health Education Training and Awareness, an advocacy group based in Gujarat.

The program provides information and services on reproductive and sexual health and nutrition to out-of-school female adolescents between 10 and 19 years old.

Three-Year Trial

The center was asked to implement its “sustained awareness” program in 53 villages with a high number of out-of-school young women in a district of Gujarat. The program ran for three years, between 2009 and 2012.

Jhala’s village was among those selected and now she belongs to a group of out-of-school female adolescents trained as peer educators by the center. The peer educators share information about nutrition and reproductive and sexual health to other out-of-school young women to help combat the challenges of early marriage, early pregnancy, diseases related to risky behavior and sexual exploitation.

When the center carried out a study to measure the impact of their intervention on 256 young women, they found that the percentage of out-of-school female adolescents who were aware of HIV-AIDS, condoms and the importance of nutrition almost doubled after they were linked to related information and services.

The center, which released its study in New Delhi last month, found that knowledge of anemia rose to almost 100 percent among the young women surveyed, from 73 percent three years earlier.

This is significant, as over 56 percent of female adolescents in India are anemic, according to the government’s most recent survey. The World Health Organization says the disorder–which remains the biggest indirect cause of maternal mortality– weakens the blood’s ability to clot, increasing the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

The center’s study also found that respondents’ awareness of reproductive tract infections and the importance of using condoms all rose significantly. Participants in the survey were also seeking medical care more frequently.

“Health challenges can be overcome if adolescents are able to access information and services,” said Pallavi Patel, director-in-charge of the Center for Health Education Training and Awareness.

Swapna Majumdar is based in New Delhi and writes on gender, development and politics.

 

#India – Young Love, old moralities #moralpolicing #ageofconsent #adolescentsex


Kamayani Bali Mahabal | March 23, 2013, Times Crest

The whole debate around the age of consent is clouded by foolish misconceptions, some of them legal and many of them cultural.

Do Baba Ramdev and others know what the implications of reducing the age of consent are? They have been crying themselves hoarse that the move will lead to a rise in the incidents of rape.
‘Age of consent’ does not imply the age at which you are allowed to consent for sex. It is a legal concept which means that this will be the age below which ‘consent’ will not be considered a valid defence against a rape charge. So if a 16-to-18-year-old boy is charged with rape, he will be convicted even if the girl tells the court she had consented.

There is also another misconception at work in this debate. The age of consent is not being reduced – in India, the age of consensual consent has always been 16. Consensual intercourse with a girl under this age was construed as “statutory rape”. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, enacted in 2012, increased the age of consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18. The Verma Committee recommended that the age of consent in the Indian Penal Code should revert to 16.

Where does the age of consent stand in other countries? Britain, 16, France, 15, and in Spain, 13. In the United States, the age ranges from 16 to 18 years, depending on the state in the question. People need to understand that it is quite normal for people to have sexual relationship at 16 or 17.

The reason feminists are asking age of consent to be kept at 16 years is that we do not want to criminalise and send off young boys to prison when they are in a consensual sexual relationship. As Judge Kamini Lau in her judgment last year said in the absence of what she called a “close-in-age reprieve, ” the increase in the age of consent “would become regressive and draconian as it tends to criminalise adolescent sex. ” If the age of consent is raised to 18, any sexual contact between teenagers will be considered rape, period. And all big brothers who want to control their sisters’ freedom will use it to accuse any boy/male classmate/friend who befriends their sisters, strengthening the patriarchal stereotypes which the women’s movement has been fighting to eliminate for decades.

According to the apex body of child rights in the country, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, children’s homes are full of boys who have eloped or had consensual sex with young girls whose disapproving parents have filed cases of kidnapping and rape against them. This means that a later age of consent is widely used as a weapon by protective parents.

Then there is the other question: Would pegging the age of consent at 16 encourage trafficking and rape? How can it? Trafficking and rape are a crime, no matter what the age. If it is raised to 18, young boys, especially from Dalit and tribal communities, will face rape convictions for consensual relationships with upper caste/class girl.

We need to amend the law whereby a man who is 4-5 years or more older than a 16-to-18-year-old girl can be convicted of statutory rape, irrespective of the consent of the girl, as he can sexually exploit a young girl.

The issue here is not if teenage sex is good or bad but if consensual sex between teenagers is to be defined as rape or not. We are drafting a criminal law, not a moral or a social code like the Manu Smriti.
The various babas, religious groups and the khap panchayats believe that young persons, particularly girls, should not exercise any sexual freedom. They view marriage, as determined by their families, as the only destiny for young women. The decision to have sex or not is personal. The law cannot decide when and where a person should have sex, it can only frame laws to prevent crimes.

We should understand the difference between consensual sex and marriage. A marriage is not all about sexual gratification. It is a big social responsibility, which ties a person not only to his or her partner but also to the family and kids. So the age for marriage and consensual sex should be looked at differently. Are child marriages held with the consent of children? No, they are thrust upon them. The argument for keeping the age of consent at 16 years is to prevent the criminal law from interfering in the rights of young people to exercise sexual autonomy and agency. This will curb societal control along conservative lines of caste, class and religion.

While drafting the new law, there are some contemporary realities that government appears to have forgotten. It is medically accepted fact that the age of puberty has been coming down across populations around the world. Biologically, therefore, youngsters are starting to feel the effects of sex hormones raging around their bodies much earlier. According to the third National Health Survey, 2005-06 nearly 43 per cent of women aged between 20-24 had engaged in intercourse before they were 18.

Do we have anything close to sex education in India to allow young people to make informed choices? We need to equip teenagers so they can understand their bodies, and respect sexual attraction, not despise it, and deal responsibly with it. We should not criminalise that attraction. If we do, young men will only end up fearing and hating women, and developing a distorted perception of sexuality and women. This will only make them more violent towards women.

Is this the way we want to deal with violence against women? The criminal law should take into account a teenager’s ability and maturity to make decisions about sex. It should help them deal with their sexuality in an informed and responsible way. Law should strengthen our rights and freedoms and not be an instrument of social control or moral policing.

Now that the government has passed the Bill with the age of consent at 18, we have opened avenues for the prosecution of young boys and girls. We have acknowledged that the Indian society wishes to treat its young boys and girls as immature individuals incapable of making a responsible decision about their sexual lives. Now let us think, is this one step forward or four backwards?

The writer is a lawyer and human rights activist.

 

Sex Education is Also a Right- is India listening ?


By Ivet GonzálezReprint |
Many countries in Latin America have made progress in introducing sex education in schools. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPSMany countries in Latin America have made progress in introducing sex education in schools. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

HAVANA, Nov 13 2012 (IPS) – Learning about respect in a relationship, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender equality and family planning forms part of the right to sex education that is still not enjoyed by all children and adolescents in Latin America.

“They talk to us in school about teen pregnancy and safe and responsible sex,” Leonardo Martínez, a 12-year-old student in Havana, told IPS. “I did homework about children’s rights, and thanks to that we learned more about how important sex education is.”

However, Javier García, who is the same age, commented, “We have to talk more about other things,” after participating in a community meeting about violence against women as part of a national event that was held this month in eight Cuban provinces. “We experience these differences, but we don’t know how to deal with them.”

“Sexuality needs to be thought of in terms of pedagogy and human rights. We need to move from a medical approach to a more educational approach,” said Argentine sexologist Mirta Marina, coordinator of her country’s National Programme for Comprehensive Sex Education.

Latin America is “going through a process of development” in this field, but “it still has many restrictions, mostly because of the conservatism that has been passed down for centuries, which makes it difficult to talk about these matters within the family and at school,” Marina told IPS in Havana, during a regional meeting on comprehensive sex education.

In classrooms and other educational spaces, teaching staff should provide guidance about sexuality with the goal of promoting health. “But we have to progressively add other aspects, such as gender equality, respect for gender diversity, and the elements of affection, expression of feelings and pleasure,” she added.

In her opinion, “it is a battle that will continue, to a lesser or greater extent, based on the progress made in each country. We have to work more on the rights of boys and girls to enjoy their bodies and gender equality.”

This agreement, which was signed in 2008 by 30 health ministries and 26 education ministries from Latin American and the Caribbean, outlined paths to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The countries committed themselves to achieving two major goals by 2015: cutting in half the number of adolescents and young people who do not have access to health services that fully meet their sexual health needs, and reducing by 75 percent the number of schools — under ministerial jurisdiction — that do not provide comprehensive sex education.

According to the study, which covers the 2008-2011 period, the Mesoamerican region — southern Mexico and Central America — advanced by 49 percent in implementing that strategy, and South America made 41 percent progress. However, it did not include Brazil or the Caribbean islands.

The countries that made the most progress were Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and Costa Rica. And bringing up the rear were Panama, Belize, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela, the study found.

According to the United Nations, in Latin America some 68,000 adolescents (10 to 19 years old) are living with HIV/AIDS: 34,680 of them female and 33,320 male. And more than half of new HIV cases worldwide due to sexual transmission are detected among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In recent years, teen pregnancy rates have shot up in the region, exceeded only by those of Africa.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reports that adolescents in the region accounted for 14 percent of births between 2000 and 2005 – nearly double the proportion of previous five-year periods.

From January to July of 2012, 1,448 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth in Guatemala.

And in Bolivia, 18 percent of mothers were 12 to 18 years old in 2008. But by 2011, that number had increased to 25 percent, according to the U.N. Population Fund, which on Nov. 14 will publish its annual world report focusing on the links between family planning, human rights and development.

That is why governments must guarantee sexual and reproductive rights from an early age, Uruguayan Dr. Stella Cerruti told IPS.

However, it is a slow process, and a subject of debate between specialists, politicians and the population in general, she said.

While many countries in the region have national programmes or have signed regional and international agreements, the reality is more complex.

Some religious groups and many parents are opposed to sex education in schools, and governments do not always put a priority on the issue, Cerruti said.

Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) organised a gathering of 57 Latin American experts and activists in Havana Nov. 5-7 to review strategies and strengthen alliances in “comprehensive sex education with an approach based on gender, human rights and diversity.”

Civil society organisations “have an important role to play in social auditing and pressing governments to enforce legal frameworks on sex education,” activist Roberto Luna told IPS. “They can also provide them with specialised technical assistance,” added the founder of Incide Joven, a Guatemalan network that promotes political participation on the issue.

A Victory for Young People at the United Nations


From April 23 to April 27, 2012, the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) met at the United Nations in New York City. The CPD is an annual week-long meeting at the UN where advocates and members states gather to create a resolution document that upholds the Programme of Action created at the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) in 1994. Since the theme of this year’s CPD was Adolescents and Youth, a main focus of the negotiations was ensuring the sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) for young people. Prior to the CPD, IWHC held an intensive multi-day Advocacy in Practice (AiP) workshop to help support participants advocating for SRRH at the national and international levels (pictured left).

International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and our advocate colleagues, including members of RESURJ, are very excited that late Friday, UN member states issued a bold resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights. This victory is a result of a week of very long days: hard work and strategic advocacy was put forth by an amazing group of advocates, who camped out at the UN here in New York for many long hours, going over language, making suggestions, and working with country delegates to make much-needed changes in the resolution.

Key points of the final resolution include:

  1. The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality
  2. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion where legal, that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate
  3. The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education
  4. Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion“At this time of global uncertainty, there is no more important investment to be made,” said south African youth delegate Kgomotso Papo during the closing plenary. “Only healthy young people whose human rights are protected can be fully productive workers and effective participants in their country’s political processes. Only when young people are healthy and empowered can they contribute to building strong communities and vibrant nations.

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