The term Comprehensive Sexuality Education is usually familiar for the people working for Sexual and Reproductive health and rights or adolescent, but for a layman its integration of three complex topics together. Before I join this sector 8/9 years back I didn’t have any understanding of the Comprehensive education, until I started exploring it intensely.
Since Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a broader topic and it has a wide range of definition globally. In the context of Nepal, the understanding of Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) emphasizes a holistic approach to human development and sexuality. Thus, sexuality education needs to be very comprehensive and age-appropriate. The mandatory unit in school i.e. Environment, Health and Population (EHP) explains about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) but this has limited the sexuality underneath the Reproductive health. Similarly, course emphasis more on health issues rather connecting it with the Rights and the whole concept of Sexual and Reproductive Health(SRHR) has not been designed comprehensively. Though many advocacies have been done for revision of course but the system allows course revision once in 5 years of time which hinders the process of integration of comprehensive knowledge.
Though there are many organization and various advocates for CSE, I truly feel the concept of CSE is not well conceptualized by everyone. There is always a confusion with the borderline of health and rights and I have experienced several times when we discuss on topic CSE or SRHR people usually tend to connect it with Menstruation, pregnancy, abortion, early marriage, contraception kind of issues which is just a health issue. These topics are rarely looked through the lens of Rights and behavioral change. Therefore, unless people who work for SRHR or CSE has a uniform and clear understanding it will be very difficult to address and comprehend the issue.
I still remember my discussion with Curriculum department regarding changes in the curriculum of EHP, since I was advocating for sexuality education, he addressed it as Vulgarity and accused me for promoting it among young generations. Though this mentality has taken a steady shift and curriculum has been revised to some extent but doesn’t address the major concerns at ground level. Teachers do not have enough information regarding SRHR issues and neither they are trained, further these topics are still associated with Vulgarity. Therefore, young generations don’t get any space to discuss on such topic neither at home nor at school, and it is still treated as a taboo. Thus, unless teachers take an initiation to raise the issue of SRHR and openly discuss with the student regarding sexuality as a normal topic like any other, it will be impossible to address the concerns and dilemmas of SRHR among youngsters. For example, the words like ‘Penis’ and ‘Vagina’ should be normalized like any other body parts like ‘Eyes’ and ‘Ears”. Similarly, there should be a proper monitoring system by the government to make sure the revised course has been effectively implemented in the school. We have a habit of not accepting the change and choosing easy way out, and especially in case of sensitive issue teachers might not give equal importance to the SRHR topic and chances of skipping the unit. Thus, proper investigation must be done by the governing bodies to make sure SRHR issues are addressed and it weigh equal importance to pass the subject unlike others.
SRHR and CSE is not something that has emerged recently, rather it has been a suppressed issue in our society as a taboo for long period of time. To be realistic, it will take time to completely address the issue. But unless we speak up for SRHR issues openly and especially in the school level as children are highly vulnerable at that point of time, it is impossible to get remarkable changes.
Though recently young generations started raising their voice and speaking up for SRHR issues more profoundly, to promote the SRHR, vacuum must be filled with clear information and distinguish SRHR issues as a Right issue not limiting it with health concerns.
Ursula Utsaha Singh, LOOM Board Member