Nepal | June 18, 2019

Sex education: For children’s healthy growth

Giri Bahadur Sunar

Sex education must contribute to promoting the moral, spiritual, physical and psychological development of our children from the school level. An effective sex education will help our children to be well informed about their sexuality and lives

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

It has been years since policymakers have tried to include sex education in the school curriculum. There is uncertainty about what sex education is and how it should be taught. In the absence of sex education, cases of sexual harassment, teenage pregnancy, pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, sexting, inappropriate online content use, cyber-bulling and unhealthy sexual relationship are increasing.

To protect our children from such vulnerability, we need to hold proper consultation with the parents, teachers, community people, concerned government authorities and related experts to develop a national level sex education curriculum.

Sex education must contribute to promoting the moral, spiritual, physical and psychological development of our children from the school level. An effective sex education will help our children to be responsible and well informed to decide about their sexuality and lives.

Sex education must teach the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up, gender, relationship and reproduction, proper use of contraceptives and sexual health. Sex as a subject must be included in science, social studies, moral science, health and hygiene as well as economics. If the government were to launch such a programme, it will definitely help to reduce the growing number of sex-related crimes in our society.

Since ages, sex has been wrongly interpreted, and a kind of suspense has been built around it. It is natural for children to be curious about their bodies, genitals and the human reproduction system, but parents find it difficult to talk to their children about sex. However, both the parents must take the initiation to give sex education to their children at home without embarrassment, guilt and shame. Our younger generation must learn that their body belongs to them and that they can decide who has access to it and who has not.

Science as a subject must teach children about the biological facts related to their bodily growth, puberty, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Moral science must teach about the social norms and values related to sex, relationship of sex with spirituality, personal responsibility and privacy. Social science must educate children about gender disparity, social discrimination, social inclusion, domestic violence, harassment, abuse, rape, marriage and divorce.

Health and hygiene must educate them about healthy sex relationships, menstruation, HIV/AIDS and pornography. Economics must teach them about prostitution and sex, poverty and sexual exploitation, expenditure on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

Similarly, law in the school curriculum should educate students about the legal provision of different types of crimes in Nepal, like cyber-crime, cyber-bullying, and use of social media, sexting, nudity, sexual consent and child rights.

Psychology should educate about the Sigmund Freud concept about how the brain functions in an unconscious, preconscious and conscious mind. There should be meditation and yoga classes focussing on health living and breathing exercises.  The curriculum must take into consideration the age category of
pupils.

For example, primary level students should be taught how their bodies and feelings changes as they grow, about their genital and other organs and their functions. They should know how a baby is conceived and born.

Similarly, secondary level education must teach about menstruation, use of contraceptives, sexually transmitted infection, legal provisions about sex, sexual consent, safe sex, sexual activities and parenthood, marriage relation, living together relation, love, sexual health, abortion, and online and offline activities.

Teaching should also emphasise that pornography is not the best way to learn about sex because it does not reflect real life and can, therefore, be confusing and frightening for young people. Students must understand pornography’s influence on gender expectation of sex.

Pornography often shows violent and oppressive behaviours towards women, which can be frightening and puts pressure on young people to behave in a particular way. So, sexual consent and respectful relationship must be taught at the secondary or college level.

Sex education must help in the mental and physical development of our children by incorporating self-defense classes to boost the confidence of both boys and girls. But self-defense is not all about kicking and punching. It
is more about educating the children and youths about being physically and mentally fit and about being aware of their surroundings.

They should be able to recognise predators and understand the causes of sexual abuse and how it impacts us. The self-defense classes must teach people about the different skills needed for escaping and being safe without confrontation.

In the 21st century, we need to protect our children and youth from inappropriate online content, cyber-bullying, abuse and rape. It is the time to re-think and re-design the different subjects taught in the primary and secondary level curriculum. It is a challenging job, teachers must be trained to cope with the 21st century’s difficulties.

Sunar is a sociologist

 


A version of this article appears in print on March 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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