Effective sex education still a problem in many countries
SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 24 March 2005 – Forty children and young people from twenty countries in East Asia and the Pacific have called on their Governments to protect them from HIV/AIDS by providing for more effective sex education in schools. The plea for action was made by youth delegates at the closing of a “Children and Young People’s Forum” organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Forum is held in conjunction with the 7th East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children.
Compulsory sex education
“If people are old enough to have sex, then they are also old enough to learn about sex. You can’t stop people from having sex. But you can help save their lives if you give them the right education."
Tanes Rianglaem (18)
“Sex education should be made compulsory in schools if governments and adults are serious about protecting our wellbeing, health and our future. We need trained teachers to teach us. Teachers who can teach us the facts without being embarrassed or judgemental”, said Chan Kit Sze, 18 from Malaysia who is attending the youth forum and the Ministerial Consultation as one of fifteen youth reporters from the region.
Positive peer pressure
According to Tanes Rianglaem, 18, from Thailand, young girls and boys are already engaging in sex, “If people are old enough to have sex, then they are also old enough to learn about sex. You can’t stop people from having sex. But you can help save their lives if you give them the right education. Peer education is one good way. It’s about positive peer pressure to do the right thing.”
In addition to providing sex education in schools, young people also suggested that parent workshops be organised to help parents understand the need for their children to learn about sex as well as how they can talk about it with their children in an open and informative manner.
“We have an opportunity today to avert a crisis – an opportunity that may not last long. Trends in the region point to a growing incidence of HIV/AIDS among younger age groups, especially girls. In Thailand for example, 70 per cent of young people infected with the virus are girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24” said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and Pacific.
US$ 1 billion will be raised
As part of UNICEF’s commitment to the issue, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy informed young people during the Forum that US$ 1 billion will be raised in the next 10 years to help countries around the world respond more effectively with HIV/AIDS care, support and prevention programs to meet the special needs of children.
Aside from HIV/AIDS, youth delegates also discussed issues on quality education, child participation, cultural change and media as well as employment opportunities for young people.
“We want our ministers in the East Asia and Pacific region to work for a region fit for children. Because a region fit for children is a region fit for everyone. We are the future and we are also the present. So please give us full opportunities to make a difference in our world with our participation, ideas and suggestions”, said the participants in a statement issued at the end of their 3-day program.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
7th East Asia & Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children