Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people's skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices.
It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. This is because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS. It is also argued that providing sex education helps to meet young people’s rights to information about matters that affect them, their right to have their needs met and to help them enjoy their sexuality and the relationships that they form.
Sex education is broad term that encompasses a wide range of topics that relate to human sexual anatomy, sexual intercourse, sexual reproduction, reproductive health, reproductive rights, contraception, and other facets of human sexual behavior. Sex education can be a part of school programs but it can also be informally taught by parents or guardians or through various public health campaigns.
Sex education may also pertain to ‘sexuality education,’ which means that it also covers all perspectives about human sexuality. As such, it would integrate discussions about reproduction, family planning, and all the elements of one's sexuality. Human sexuality in itself is a scopic term which takes into account body image; sexual orientation; morals and values; communication and decision making; dating and relationships. Also included are more sensitive topics such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and birth control methods.
As aforementioned sex education can be taught informally, such as discussing the matter with parents or friends. It can also be imparted by religious leaders, advocate groups, government campaigns or through mass media. The subject can also be effectively delivered through sex self-help authors, newspaper and magazine articles, or through a number of sex education websites.
Sex education from the onset of its conception to date has remained a sensitive and controversial issue in several nations. There are schools that incorporate sex education as a full course as part of the curriculum, particularly in junior high school or high school. In other instances, it just forms part of a broader topic such as biology, health and fitness or physical education. There are schools with no sex education in their curriculum, since there has been much debate as to the age at which students ought to be exposed to such sensitive topics, the amount of information that should be taught, and topics dealing with human sexual behavior.
Whenever sex education is subjected to debates, the primary argument is whether discussing sexuality is beneficial or detrimental among teenagers. Among the points of contention are the use of birth control, teenage pregnancy, abortion and the transmission of diseases. It has been revealed that countries with conservative outlook towards sex education tend to have a higher incidence of teenage pregnancy and STIs.
Other pressing issues have come to the fore and have fueled a new sense of urgency to the topic of sex education. Perhaps the most glaring example is the unprecedented spread of the AIDS virus. In Africa for instance, where AIDS has reached pandemic proportions, sex education is viewed by experts as a key component in developing an effective public health strategy.
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