It seems sex education in our homes is still a touchy subject. Even against the backdrop of the ravages of HIV/AIDS, nurturing healthy attitudes around sexuality in our children remains a culturally sensitive minefield.
Globally connected, yet rooted in our heritage, issues of sex and sexuality in our families are taking centre stage in our world – like it or not.
As the world reflects on the impact of HIV/AIDS, celebrates successes and shares ideas about how do deal with the evolving challenges of the pandemic, young people are seen as the key driver in turning the tide of HIV infection rates, through attitudinal and behaviour change. How? - By taking personal responsibility for their lives and by being in the know. Information, education and dialogue are the fundamentals.
So, where did you learn about sex? Who helped you navigate through the confusing maze of puberty as you discovered your body through tingly feelings and strange body odours? In some families, discussions about sex and sexuality are, even today, a no-go area.
Some claim it’s a cultural issue saying we, (read: Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora), do not believe it’s appropriate to dialogue with our children about the fuzzy details of sex and their bodies. Still, we agree on the importance of instilling moral values of chastity, abstention from sex before marriage and self-respect.
How so? Is it possible to paint the rose without allowing our children to smell it?
Are we using culture as an excuse to side-step the ever more complex responsibilities we have as parents?
While we’re nurturing values and ideologies through our cultural mores what is holding us back from collectively devising approaches to bridge the dialogue gap between us, the way our parents taught us and the new generation?
Young people are gasping for information. No matter the geographical location, young people across the world are part of a global youth culture. In a technologically advancing world, access to sex in all its forms is a click away on a cell-phone or a computer.
From Rianna’s sensuous hip-rolls and 50 Cent’s ménage-a-trois video scenes to the pastor’s Sunday morning sermon about the virtues of abstinence; youth are hit by conflicting messages of sex and sexuality from all sides. The very cultural icons they adore threaten to erode the roots we, as parents, strive to plant in the home.
Let’s face it; even our homes are not what they were. For many caught up in the frenetic activity of life, the idea of a Sunday dinner with the family has become a luxury – but that’s for another day!
The statistics speak for themselves. With one in three people HIV positive in some regions of South Africa, sex education in the home and the community is at the sharp end of the wedge in HIV/AIDS management.
The call is to stretch our parenting role from technical ‘birds and the bees’ information to developing a cachet of life-skills that will empower our children to confidently navigate through the barrage of sex (mis)information. For it is skills of negotiation, listening and assertiveness that will enable them to make informed choices when faced with making a decision that could irrevocably change the course of their lives.
Our culture doesn’t allow us to talk openly to our children? Enough said.