Editor's Note: Today we welcome Pamela Pizarro, writing from Canada. She has experience with youth coalitions and will be writing about the sexual and reproductive health and rights of youth in Canada.
Youth are curious; it is one of our fundamental traits as young people. It helps us to explore and learn about the world around us. Curiosity about sex and sexuality is something that every young person goes through. We begin by exploring our own bodies, and then move on to exploring the bodies of others. It is a natural progression that each individual goes through, and when we encounter questions about our sexuality we look to our peers, educational institutions and our parents for answers.
Many of us are too embarrassed to talk about the questions that we have in regards to sexuality. We are told that it is not something that we should talk about openly, and in some extreme cases we are told that our thoughts and feelings are impure and dangerous. Accessing unbiased, scientifically correct information about sex and sexuality is difficult, and many youth simply don't know where to turn. One of the myths that exist about sexuality education is that it makes youth more promiscuous. The more you talk about sex, the more people will want to try it. However the opposite is true. In the case of youth, the more information that they receive about sex and sexuality, the more likely they are to put off sexual encounters. Also, these sexual encounters tend to be done in an educated and safe fashion since individuals will know what they must do in order to protect themselves.
This is where many schools could step in to offer comprehensive sexuality education. Schools have the power to educate youth and adolescents about the natural process that the human body goes through once it reaches puberty, how to identify and deal with the feelings, emotions, and urges that are over taking our bodies, but more importantly how to protect ourselves from disease and dangerous situations. Sadly, many schools do not take advantage of this opportunity, choosing rather to not talk about sex at all, and if they do address sex and sexuality it is rarely with a comprehensive approach. Because schools in Canada are also divided along religious lines, each school board can pick and choose what it teaches about sexuality. For example Catholic schools are not required to address diverse sexual orientations, and are free (under the guise of freedom of religion) to misinform youth about homosexuality.
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Growing up and attending Catholic schools meant that I received a limited sexual education in the classroom. We were told to "pray" when we had sexual urges, and taught the basics about female and male reproduction. In gym classes we were shown TV movies of the week on subjects such as date rape; there was never any discussion, and this was certainly never in the presence of the opposite sex.
The Canadian government has developed guidelines about sexual health education. This guide is meant to help shape sexual health discussions, but this does not mean that there is a standard approach that each school board is expected to take in regards to sexuality education. One of the better websites that youth, parents, and educators can access is www.sexualityandu.ca. This website has sections specifically divided to address the needs of each group.
Canadian youth are entitled to receive the best and most comprehensive education available. This includes sexuality education programs that allow our younger generations to make informed choices about their own bodies.