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Another milestone in Kenya as sex, alcohol and drug use among students declines to only 550

It takes a very positive mind-set to turn a rather sad reality into a success story. I am starting to believe that our obsession with creating a new paradigm of sex education is the reason we have not achieved much traction in providing comprehensive sexuality education for youth. So today I want to attempt something unusual; I want to get into the mind of the many Kenyans opposed to sex education to figure out how they construct their reality.

Let us start with some basic statistics—I hope you get past the pain of reading the numbers to the actual story the numbers tell. In 2013, nearly half (47%) of high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. In fact, about one fifth of all male and female students in 2013 had more than four sexual partners. You have judged right; these are shocking figures, especially when you note that high school students are on average below age 18 years.

If you are a Kenyan reading this then you need to celebrate, because these are not statistics from Kenya but rather from the United Stated of America. But that’s not the only reason to celebrate; go ahead and open two bottles of Tusker Lager, because we also have statistics from Kenya, and boy are they encouraging.

You see, in the last three months, Kenya has succeeded in reducing sexual activity among high school students to as low as 550. Yes, 550! And we know that these 550 discovered in some basement in a “sexually compromising” situation while high on all manner of drugs and alcohol do not represent Kenyan students. My bet is that these 550 have been influenced by western cultures—what they see on the television and read on the internet. How else would they know about sex at this age? How else would a 12-year-old know that a boy’s penis and a girl’s vagina can have some sort of fellowship, the kind they were just about to engage in at that basement? You see this is not the first time a few of our youth are falling to this evil temptation. Only two months ago another bus was intercepted somewhere in Central Kenya full of school students engaged in similar un-Kenyan activities.

What is most frustrating is that many Kenyans still do not see the obvious connection in these matters. Why is no one listening to us when we say switch off all the TVs and cut off the internet? Yes, including the TV in the hospital reception, and the internet on our cell phones. It should be pretty easy to do that, right? Much easier than all these things you are telling us to do—talk to our children about sex, expand access to comprehensive sexual health services for youth, and so on. Why are you calling on us to change something that has worked for us for years? Our parents never taught us about sex and look how well we turned out. If we were able to figure it out on our own then why can’t the youth of today do the same? You guessed right; it’s the TV and the internet. Clearly those suggesting we change how we teach sex education do not have the best interest of Kenyan youth at heart.

How do you expect a respectable man like me to sit down with my daughter and talk about menstruation? What will other men think of me? How can a decent woman like me sit down with my son to talk about sperms? And if I did, where will I gather the confidence to serve sacrament in church on Sunday after engaging in such a dirty conversation? Don’t they learn everything they need to learn at school? If we started doing some of these things you are telling us to do we will end up as badly off as America is today. For the schools whose students have been found engaging in sex, a commission of inquiry must be set up to determine whether these students were exposed to some “immoral” movies at school. That should send a clear signal to all other schools to keep all students safe and pure by ensuring they only watch Christian movies during entertainment.

But we know what is going on here. We are not as foolish as these proponents of comprehensive sexuality education think we are and we know what we will do in response to them:

Some will tell us to “listen to your children, they are human beings too and they have a right.” We will respond with “we know what’s best for our children.” I mean these young people do not know anything. They have no clue about sexuality issues and even if we tried to talk to them they will just giggle and make silly sounds. Between watching Uhuru and Raila and their protégés insult each other and working hard to pay for my children’s school fees, who has time for such nonsense?

Others will ask us to “think about your own youth, the mistakes you made and to reflect on how differently you wished you were educated about sex.” For such, we must respond in unison that our youth was perfect otherwise we would not be as successful as we are. If they insist, perhaps even cite some secret mistakes we made when we were in our youth then we must tell them off reminding them that it is because of those mistakes that we must be harder on our children, that is why we must be mean to them when it comes to sex education. Let us show them that we have learnt so much from our own mistakes that in fact we have become better stewards of today’s youth than our own parents were. That is why of all high school students only 550 are having sex.

If they plead with us to “please do something” then we will remind them that nothing is also an option. In fact we will remind them that it is by doing nothing that the situation is not that bad. We must urge our government not to waste any tax payers’ money collecting data on youth and sexuality because we know where the problem is and we know how to fix it. And if someone, maybe one of those good for nothing NGOs funded by Western countries, takes their time to do research on adolescent sexual health, and comes to us telling us that “research shows that teaching youth about sex does not actually make them want to have sex”, still we will trash it. This will not be the first “research” we trash anyway. We will blame the media because that is what we know how to, and should that fail, we will blame foreign influence on our youth; but to do something about it, that we will not do!

Back to my own reality. The whole human experience is made better by learning from the experience of the past generation, recognizing our own faults, and trying hard not to make today better than it was yesterday. An old story written by Julia Cook talks about a boy named Norman David Edwards who everybody called Noodle. Noodle was known for blaming everything he did or did not do on somebody else, true characteristic of what I call “it’s somebody else’s fault” mentality.

On the question about youth sexual health, we have blamed everybody for far too long. One Newspaper commentary actually asked us to not lay the blame on one person/ institution, but to look at the faults of parents, teachers and society collectively; classical “It’s Somebody Else’s Fault.” Talk to teachers, they will blame parents; talk to parents, they will blame teachers; and you can guess who the whole society will blame, perhaps the police. For me, this is simple—I have a 6-year-old daughter and I know that soon she will be a teenager. It is my duty to take the lessons of my own youth, the experience I had with my parents, and the objective reality of today and use all of these to become a better parent for my daughter. I can think like the majority and abandon all wisdom and common sense, or I can try something different. Maybe I will fail, but at least I will have tried. It can make it my duty to evaluate the school and teachers I expose her to, to always know where she is and what she is doing, and to take primary responsibility for educating her. I can try to become my daughter’s friend; try to make it easy for her to be open with me. I can be there for her when she makes a mistake, and try to help her learn through those mistakes. I cannot achieve any of these without being open with her about sex. So I will strive to be my daughter’s best sex educator. Hopefully a few more fathers (and parents in general) can join me on this journey.

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Protests against sexual harassment on the rise

Friday the Safe Point campaign will march from Talaat Harb to Tahrir Square to protest the rising instances of sexual harassment and assault reported across Cairo and Egypt.

They will be joined by Bassma, a group that uses self-defence to halt violence and humiliate perpetrators. According to one of Safe Point’s organisers, in the past Bassma has caught harassers on video, shamed harassers in front of crowds and handed harassers over to police stations.

The marchers plan to arm themselves with water pistols filled with pepper spray to protect themselves in case the march itself is subject to assault, said one of Safe Point’s organisers.

Friday’s march has a dangerous precedent. On June 8 a similar march to raise awareness was attacked by mobs of men. A perimeter of male marchers was overwhelmed and many of the female marchers were violently groped.

The attacks have not halted to the pressure to improve the safety of women in Egypt’s streets. On Wednesday, women and men together tried to form a human chain in Nasr City to make a visual statement against sexual harassment.

The activists also held up white sheets of paper with simple drawings on them. The messages, however, were not as simple. “When a woman is harassed, she does not like it,” read one sign. Another stated, “I’ll defend the right of any woman to walk around safely.”

The human chain building group calls itself Nefsi, which means “I Hope.” Other signs in Nasr City used this theme of hope, reading, “I hope not to hear nasty language” and “I hope for you to respect me, so I can respect you.”

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Anonymity helps Hyderabadis talk sexual, mental health

HYDERABAD: While sexual and mental health issues remain taboo even today, the anonymity that online forums offer these days comes as a life saver for many Hyderabadis. An affirmation of this can be found in a six-city survey carried out by Lybrate -an online medical consultation platform -that shows a whopping 56% of interactions by city users are in relation to mental and intimate problems.

The survey revealed that queries from the city regarding sexual health stood at 36% and mental health at 20% over the past one year.

Lybrate, a digital partner of Indian Medical Association, has around 90,000 doctors on its portal and app. Titled 'Lybrate healthscape India-2015', the survey analysed five million online interactions between users (both genders) originating from Hyderabad and doctors between January and December 2015. The other two issues most discussed with doctors by tech-savvy Hyderabadis included lifestyle dilemmas (28%) and women's health issues (16%), the survey revealed.

When it came to their sexual health, queries most often oscillated between issues regarding sexual stamina, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, sex during pregnancy, safe sex and sex libido.

Elaborating on the survey, Saurabh Arora, founder and CEO, Lybrate, said, "Upon analysing the data, the major health problems in the city seem to be sexual and mental health related. We built the plat form to keep the identity of users anonymous so that they can discuss any health problem freely and this is why many people were comfortable talking about these subjects."

Dr K Srinivas, who has been on Lybrate app since its launch in January 2015, feels that sexual and mental problems are interconnected. "It would not be wrong to say that 60% to 70% of sexual problems originate from mental health issues," said Srinivas, neuro-psychiatrist and sex therapist, Maxcure Hospital, Madhapur.Citing an example, he said cases of premature ejacu lation could be linked to anxiety, depression, adjustment disorders and to the psycho-social environment of the patient."Though only 8% to 10% of online queries translate into actual visits, solutions is such cases involve counselling and psychiatric medicines," he added.

Sexual and mental health turned out to be the most discussed issues in other metros as well with queries relating to these subjects amounting to 75% of all discussions in New Delhi, 67% in Mumbai, 49% in Kolkata, 49% in Chennai and 45% in Bengaluru.

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