Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don’t shy away from the ‘talk’: Your children deserve sex-education

I believe it would be better if, instead of exposing their children to such disparate and wild information, parents have an honest talk. PHOTO: REUTERS
Due to some myopic stigmas related to sexual and reproductive health rights issues in our country, parents normally refrain from discussing such topics with children. The result is that sometimes children without awareness have extreme trouble in dealing with this.
I appreciate those parents who consider it important to equip their children with knowledge about the physical changes they go through, while hitting puberty. But there are many parents who do not discuss such issues with them, considering it obnoxious.
Thus, their children are left with no other option but to either consult their friends or log on to websites to explore this topic. Here, they either acquire information in a positive or negative manner. The negative one can either make them a victim or an offender of abuse.
These are the same parents who have no objection to their children listening to private radio channels or watching the television channels where, under the banner of ‘modern enlightenment’, all sorts of information is being disseminated in a questionable manner.
The parents also allow their children to carry cell phones or laptops through which they can easily access the Internet and log on to any website to satisfy their craving for information of any type.
I believe it would be better if, instead of exposing their children to such disparate and wild information, parents have an honest talk.
I came across two cases once, while writing an article on abuse.
In one case, a person was shattered when she was divorced by her husband when he found out that she had been abused. Her mother never taught her how to protect herself physically, causing the woman to experience much psychological trauma.
For another person, the molester was her nine-year-old brother. When she was older and finally built up the courage to say no, he assaulted her. One day, she discovered a diaper rash on her one-year-old baby girl, which brought back traumatic memories. She opened up to her husband about why she broke down, hoping that he would help her come to terms with her traumatic childhood.
Unfortunately, he divorced her instead.
At various seminars and workshops on sexual reproductive health and rights, health experts and civil society members suggested including this topic in the educational curriculum. They believe that this will help to educate people in a manner that could greatly benefit our society.
In response to this a well-known gender specialist, informed the audience that there are many teachers who are reluctant and feel uneasy to teach such topics considering them to be bold and inappropriate, bearing Pakistan’s conservative society in mind.
He quoted an example of a senior biology teacher at a school in Multan who quit a chapter on reproductive health as he felt uncomfortable to teach this to his students – especially to females.
I believe this is due to the generation gap. There are many parents who feel uneasy to talk to their children about sexual reproductive health issues.  Even if a child asks his parents about how he was born, parents consider it to be strange and feel that this information is inappropriate for children. Thus, the induce the stigma that such topics are ‘vile’ and condition their children to believe that discussing such ‘vulgar’ topics makes one a bad person.
Such an attitude of parents, forces their children to learn about such things from other sources mainly, their friends or the internet. As we all know, the internet can be a dangerous place for such discussion. If a search goes wrong, children may fall in to the hands of sexual predators and this could lead to a lot of trauma. It is painfully easy to fall in to such a trap – countless stories exist where, in their innocence, children have not even realised that they have been taken advantage of.
Why let it come to this point?
I believe that a father can easily teach his son and a mother, her daughter, about the physical changes they will have to go through while hitting puberty. If they think they cannot, then they can ask other close family members to teach their growing children or purchase books or CD’s which are attested and specifically geared towards this task.
Parents should also be given training on such issues, not only in urban areas, but in rural areas where people are completely unaware of such things.
As compared to urban areas, children in rural areas are more likely to become a victim of sexual abuse. This is due to the child labour at bus stands, roadside hotels, shops and factories. These children are sexually abused and this affects them psychologically and physically.
Furthermore, these children grow up to become molesters in their attempt to avenge their own childhood trauma.
Now the real question is, how to teach this to a nation who is not even ready to talk about controlling AIDs?
Posted by Sehrish Wasif on etribune blogs

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