'Sex education in schools does not sexualise children'

Panellists Jacques van Zuydam (DSD), Nthabiseng Mogashoa (Siyakwazi Youth Movement), Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry (IPPF), Patsy de Lora (PSH) and Granville Whittle (DBE) cut the #BecauseWeCan! campaign launch ribbon.

Panellists Jacques van Zuydam (DSD), Nthabiseng Mogashoa (Siyakwazi Youth Movement), Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry (IPPF), Patsy de Lora (PSH) and Granville Whittle (DBE) cut the #BecauseWeCan! campaign launch ribbon.

Published Mar 2, 2020

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Cape Town - Sex education in schools does not sexualise children or prompt them to participate in sexual behaviour, says Granville Whittle, deputy director-general of care and support services for the Department of Basic Education.

This was also the overwhelming sentiment shared at the launch of the #BecauseWeCan campaign, which focuses on advocating the promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) among the youth.

Whittle said initiatives such as the campaign were important in defence of CSE. He added that he had been inundated with emails from those against the implementation of CSE at schools after information was leaked to the public by a DBE employee, angering parents and educators.

“All the evidence we have shows that CSE in fact delays sexual behaviour, so this notion that somehow to talk to young people about sex and sexuality, that they would then want to experiment, is nonsense,” said Whittle.

The aim of the campaign is to increase the visibility of the CSE agenda in countries within the SADC region (Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Eswatini).

It also centres on the role and capacities of youth in the decision-making process with regard to SRHR.

Regional director for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry said IPPF focused on issues of CSE and information on SRHR, but more broadly with human rights.

“We fight against sexually-based violence, discrimination and stigma that affects minorities, women and girls, but that also affects the least reachable people.”

She added: “We still have some unfinished business, for example, legal barriers combined with societal norms, taboos, intimidating people from seeking contraceptives and other SRHR services. Most countries lack clear policies on the appropriate age to seek such services, and we are still far from achieving non-discriminatory access to information and SRHR services.”

Funded by AmplifyChange, the online campaign will run for two years and is supported by Partners in Sexual Health (PSH), Faith to Action and member associations.

Key projects and strategies used will include research on CSE in the SADC regions; raising awareness and generating public support for non-discriminatory access to SRHR information and services for young people.

“CSE is the key, not only for our learners and youth, but for our parents and our colleagues in the workplaces, but when we refuse to change culture and mindset, unfortunately services will still be bad,” said Siya Jonas of Siyakwazi Youth Network.

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