Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 Reasons sex education has nothing to do with vularity

 Published: January 15, 2014l
Parents are not interested in bearing the awkwardness of gathering their sons and daughters at the family table, and giving them the dreaded ‘birds and bees’ talk.
While it is truly comforting that Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif – among many others — is taking such lively interests in our students’ moral upbringing, he may have mistaken ‘sex education’ for ‘vulgarity’.
Here’s what he may be missing.
1) Sex education does not encourage elicit activities
Does having an airbag in your car make you feel like driving your Honda off a bridge? Is my plane more likely to crash if the cabin crew shows me a flight safety instructions video before take-off?
An examination of 73 studies on the subject has revealed that comprehensive sexual education does not make students more sexually active than they already are. It neither hastens one’s first sexual experience nor does it increase the frequency of sexual activity.
It’s only a moralist’s greatest fear, therefore, it has no scientific leg to stand on. These programs are designed strictly to educate, not titillate.
2) Somebody has to tell them
Let’s face it. Parents are not interested in bearing the awkwardness of gathering their sons and daughters at the family table, and giving them the dreaded ‘birds and bees’ talk.
Teenagers are left with two options: Learn about safe sex from a qualified teacher or learn from other neighbourhood kids who just happened to stumble upon some ‘information’ they weren’t supposed to know.
I strongly recommend the first option.
3) Its happening, whether you teach it or not
Our current approach to the problems related to sexual health, is that of an ostrich, refusing to discuss the matter and pretending that it makes the problems go away.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s not an easy discussion but that doesn’t make it not worth discussing.
4) The human body isn’t ‘vulgar’
Your natural physical form isn’t sin turned flesh. Just as it’s important for us to learn about the functions of our brains, livers, hearts, stomachs and limbs, it is important to learn about the sexual organs and the possible disorders that may afflict them.
5) It helps prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
This is a no-brainer but its significance is repeatedly downplayed.
We teach young students the importance of washing their hands before eating and bathing regularly, avoiding mayonnaise that has been left out of the fridge for too long and getting vaccinated.
But we happily gamble with their sexual health, rolling the dice and hoping they’d learn the do’s and don’ts on their own somehow. The odds of that happening, regrettably, are too low for comfort.
In one study conducted in Faisalabad, nearly 80% of the STI patients had either never used condoms, or had not heard of them. The lack of use, or even knowledge, of the single most basic barrier available to the population for safe sex is alarming. It is living proof of the fact that we cannot rely on sheer chance to have this information disseminated to the public. Active steps must be taken.
6) It helps avoid unwanted pregnancies
Pregnancies among teenagers who are neither psychologically nor socially equipped to handle them can, and does, destroy lives.
In Pakistan, where termination of pregnancy is not legal except for very specific circumstances, accidental pregnancies translate into an additional problem of back-alley abortions. These involve extremely unsafe procedures that can cause permanent harm and even death.
In Pakistan, studies have revealed that as high as 18% of all maternal deaths are attributed to these abortions. A reduction in the commonness of teenage abortions could bring down the number of illegal abortions too.
7) Sexual imagery is everywhere, sex education isn’t
When one’s senses are constantly bombarded by the latest Bollywood item songs, sultry advertisements and suggestive jokes and stories, it can easily warp one’s understanding of the dynamics of a mature sexual relationship.
If not supplemented with proper education, the effects can be catastrophic. It is virtually impossible to eliminate this imagery from our lives but it is possible to add lessons on sexual health in class curriculum.
8) It encourages healthy discussion on sexual health
In a country where it’s taboo to talk about breast lumps or disorders of the reproductive cycle, it helps tremendously to provide the students a safe academic environment to share their concerns in.
We cannot outsource even the most basic information on sexual health to healthcare professionals, who are often already overwhelmed by the patient load. One doesn’t queue up outside the doctor’s office to learn about the benefits of hand-washing, therefore one doesn’t need to do that to learn about condoms either.
9) “Past generations survived without it. Can’t you?”
Older opponents of sexual education like to point out how they managed to learn about sex without the help of a teacher and so can the new generation.
I imagine people also got by without penicillin or know-how on disease prevention for the longest time, or we wouldn’t be here to discuss this matter today. But maybe the incident rate of unwanted pregnancies and diseases was higher and the quality of life lower?
10) Denying education is immoral
Sex education has been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies and curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The only thing here that can be definitively classified as ‘vulgar’, is denying our young people the opportunity to educate themselves about sexual health.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Myths & Facts on Child Sexual Abuse

Myth: Child sexual abuse only takes place in poor families.
Fact: Child sexual abuse takes place at every income level regardless of social standing and family background.

Myth: Usually there is terrible physical violence accompanying child sexual abuse.
Fact: In most reported cases the abuser is not physically violent but rather uses emotional manipulation and blackmail.

Myth: Child abusers are usually psychotic and/or of low intelligence.
Fact: Only a small number of abusers exhibit psychotic tendencies or display low intelligence. Abusers are usually people one mingles with and who seem to be socially well adjusted.

Myth: Sexual abuse generally occurs outside the home and the abusers are strangers.
Fact: Most children are sexually abused in the homes. In a predominant number of cases, the abuser has the trust of children and their families and access to their homes.

Myth: Reporting of child sexual abuse can cause more harm than good.
Fact: If child sexual abuse is not reported then the same abuser may harm other children or may target the same child again.

Courtesy: Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sindh Assembly passes HIV & AIDS Law to control the disease

In light of the rising number of HIV/AIDs cases in Sindh, the lawmakers of the provincial assembly passed a law in September  to control the disease, adopt measures for its treatment and protect its patients.
Sindh parliamentarian and law minister, Dr Sikandar Mandhro, who moved the bill, said that since the health department has been devolved to the provincial government under the 18th Amendment, there was an immediate need to make a law to control the transmission of HIV and support the people living with this disease. “This preventive disease has killed more people than the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Unfortunately, no sincere efforts to control this disease have been put in place by the previous governments,” he said while citing that more than 60 million people die because of this disease every year in the world.

According to the law passed on Friday, the government will establish a Sindh AIDs commissions within 15 days of the act’s promulgation date. The commission will comprise two representatives of NGOs working in the filed of HIV/AIDs, a lawyer, one member from a civil society organisation working on social issues, one retired member of the law enforcement agencies or retired judge, the Sindh AIDs control programme and others. It will be responsible for undertaking and implementing all projects related to HIV/AIDs in the province.  The chairperson of the commission and its secretary will be elected by the five-member governing body.

Say no to discrimination
Under the law, no person or organisation can discriminate against an individual on the basis of his or her HIV status.
“It will be unlawful to require or to coerce a person to be screened for HIV for the purpose of employment, promotion and training or benefit – either in public or private organisation,” the law said.  “Any person, who violates the law, will be punishable with fine of Rs50,000.”
Every workplace, pubic or private, having more than ten employees shall undertake an HIV/AIDs awareness programme for the benefit of its employees at least once a year. “No person, including a minor seeking admission in a private or public educational institution, shall be screened for HIV and be denied admission based solely on his/her HIV status,” the law said.
Under this law, the government will start the awareness campaign throughout the province, including a screening campaign in the city for street children. The government shall issue directives to the law enforcement agencies to conduct mandatory HIV screening test for the accused and consenting victims in all sexual assault cases.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.

Friday, September 20, 2013

International Youth Day & World Sexual Health Day: Debate Competition

In order to celebrate International Youth Day (IYD) and World Sexual Health Day (WSHD) Rutgers WPF Pakistan in collaboration with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi Lahore held debate competitions at University of Management & Technology in Lahore. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Baseline survey: Reproductive rights awareness low among adolescents

This is mainly due to limited knowledge about the subject among parents and a communication gap between them and their children, revealed the survey’s findings conducted as part of Hayat Life Line, an awareness campaign run by the Women’s Empowerment Group, in eight targeted districts and the Islamabad Capital Territory.
A total of 1,890 households were surveyed in which 3,780 respondents including guardians and youth were interviewed. The study reveals that out of 5,670 respondents, only 25.3% were aware of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Some 42% adolescents were able to identify physical changes related to puberty, while 8% were able to link emotional changes with puberty.
An analysis of the survey showed that the awareness rate among girls about sexual and reproductive health and rights was 23.4%, slightly lower as compared to boys, 27.1% of whom had some knowledge on the subject.
Meanwhile, the highest level of awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights — 40.5% — was found in Peshawar, and the lowest in Lodhran, district of Punjab, at only 9.5%, the study says. The highest level of awareness among males was in Peshawar which was 46.1% and among females was in Quetta which was 36.2%.
The survey was carried out to assess the level of understanding of key stakeholders about adolescent SRHR issues and is focused on all major aspects of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Education project (SRHR-E).
The study revealed that 42% of adolescents were able to identify some forms of gender-based violence in society. A staggering 73% identified forced marriages as the most common form.
The report suggested educating adolescents about their legal rights and social protection available to them, especially focusing on the emotional aspects of puberty.
Awareness-raising efforts should focus on parents as they are the most important source of information and peer education programmes should be initiated in schools. The media can also play an important role in providing information.
Barriers hindering communication between parents and their children regarding different forms of gender-based violence especially sexual abuse may be removed through counselling for parents.
Correcting misconceptions about HIV/AIDS should be one of the objectives of the education intervention. Furthermore, it suggests providing education on sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS with separate sessions for girls and boys, with more focus on the early adolescent age group. The study recommends that adolescents should be educated about complications and other consequences of pregnancy during adolescence.
It also recommended that advocacy efforts should be initiated to influence government policy to include the relevant sexual and reproductive health and rights components in school and college curricula. Teachers need to be trained to ensure the message is conveyed to adolescents in an effective and culturally sensitive manner.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Pakistan: Human rights? or wrongs?

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) launched its annual report. While the findings of the report painted a gloomy picture of the state of human rights in the country, the highlights of the report suggested that the unprecedented milestone of a democratically elected government completing its tenure offered hope that, given the chance, the people of Pakistan could extract themselves from the quagmire.

At least 14 journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2012.
According to Press Freedom Index, Pakistan was one of the deadliest countries for journalists for the second year running, with a ranking of 151 out of 179 countries.
Freedom of association
At least 356 political activists were killed in 2012 in Karachi alone on account of their party affiliation.
In the 2012-13 fiscal, the allocation of funds to the health sector further declined to a mere 0.2 percent (Rs. 7,845 million) of GNP.
There were around 9 million drug addicts in Pakistan and the number was on the rise. Two million of the addicts were aged between 15-25 years and the number of female addicts was around 200,000.
Pakistan ranked sixth among the 22 high-risk tuberculosis countries.
About 1.6 million cases of malaria occurred annually.
One out of every nine women in Pakistan faced the risk of breast cancer which resulted in 40,000 deaths every year, higher than in any other country in Asia.
Law and order
police encounters were reported from across the country in 2012 in which 403 suspects were killed.
drone attacks took place in FATA in 2012, compared to 74 in 2011. Estimates of casualties varied between 240 and 400.
terrorist attacks took place across Pakistan in 2012, claiming the lives of 2,050 people and causing injuries to another 3,822.
Shia Hazaras were killed in Balochistan alone.
people died in ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence in Karachi in 2012.
Jails, prisoners and disappearances
There were a total of 75,444 detainees in Pakistan’s prisons against the authorised capacity of 44,578.
There were 1,289 juvenile prisoners in jails across the country, and an overwhelming majority of them was under trial.
Freedom of thaought, conscience and religion
At least 72 dead bodies were recovered from Balochistan of individuals who had gone missing in previous months.
583 people were killed and 853 injured in 213 incidents of sectarian-related terrorist attacks and sectarian clashes.
As many as 20 Ahmadis were killed on account of their religious identity.
In Karachi, at least six churches were attacked, two of them within a period of 10 days in October.
Pakistan stood at number 52 in the world ranking of countries according to the percentage of women in parliament.
At least 121 schools were targeted by militants opposed to education, especially girls’ education.
In the budget for 2012-13, primary education got Rs 71.6 billion and secondary education Rs 69.4 billion – too little to realize MDGs.
out of every 25 primary school-age children were expected to fail or drop out of school before the fifth grade.
Around 10.9 percent of schools in Pakistan lacked proper buildings, 37.7% lacked boundary walls, 33.9% had no drinking water facility, 36.9% lacked toilets, and 59.6% schools had no electricity.
Pakistan stood at number 52 in the world ranking of countries according to the percentage of women in parliament.
According to UNESCO, at least 5.1 million Pakistani children were out of school, 63 percent of whom were girls.
As many as 913 girls and women were killed in the name of honour in 2012. These included at least 99 minor girls.
74% of the girls married off in Charsadda and Mardan districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012 were under 16.
National Policy on Climate Change was approved by the cabinet 
World Health Organization deemed water from Keenjhar Lake, a protected wetland under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, unfit for consumption.
Over 2,500 trees were cut down for development projects.
A marginal decline was observed in infant mortality and under five year mortality rates in 2012 but Pakistan still lagged behind other South Asian countries.
cases of polio, a disease that afflicts only two other countries in the world, were reported from 28 districts of Pakistan.
Pakistan had the world’s second highest number of out-of-school children aged five to nine years.
At 2.8 percent of its gross national product (GNP), Pakistan’s expenditure on education was the second lowest in South Asia.
During the first six months of 2012, 1,573 incidents of child sexual abuse were recorded.
Almost 10 million children were engaged in child labour.
Nothing was done to bring home a quarter of a million Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh since 1971.
registered and one million unregistered Afghans still remained in Pakistan
The monsoon floods and drought in Tharparkar forced over a million people from their homes.
At least 757,996 Pakistanis (163,102 families) remained internally displaced by conflict.


HIV/AIDS: Pakistan has one of Asia’s highest HIV prevalence rates

Pakistan is among the 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific which houses a majority of the people infected with HIV, according to a new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Neighbouring India and China are also on the list, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Launched at the 2011 International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), the report, titled HIV in Asia and the Pacific: “Getting to Zero”, found that more people than ever before have access to HIV services across the region. But most countries in the region are a long way from achieving universal access goals for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Pakistan nearly doubled from 11% in 2005 to 21% in 2008. The greatest source of a spread in the virus was use of drug injections and the UNAIDS says that an estimated one in five people who inject drugs in Pakistan are HIV-positive.
Across the region, the report states, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and populations at higher risk of infection remain rife. About 90% of the countries in the region retain punitive laws and policies that effectively prevent people living with HIV from accessing life-saving HIV services.
Data suggest that a significant proportion of new HIV infections within key populations are among young people under the age of 25. In most settings, HIV prevention programmes are failing to sufficiently reach young people most at risk.
More AIDS resources urgently needed
The AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific is underfunded, the report found. Pakistan, it states, is among the five countries that funds the bulk of its HIV response from domestic sources but many countries in Asia depend heavily on foreign funding, particularly for the provision of antiretroviral therapy.
Increased investment of domestic resources, especially in middle-income countries, is critical for the ongoing regional response to HIV, says UNAIDS.
“Getting to zero new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific will demand national responses based on science and the best available evidence,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel SidibĂ©. “HIV programmes must be sufficiently resourced and solidly focused on key populations. Investments made today will pay off manifold in the future.”