Par­lia­ment ought to re­con­sider its stance on Com­pre­hen­sive Sex­u­al­ity Ed­u­ca­tion

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA

Doris We­taka wad­dles into the hos­pi­tal com­pound in Bududa, with her small frame and no­tice­ably bulging stom­ach she’s hard to miss. Doris is six months preg­nant ac­cord­ing to the tat­tered file she car­ries along, it also in­di­cates that she is only 15 years of age. The 14-year-old fa­ther of her child has get a job to sup­port her and their baby and of course marry her as soon as pos­si­ble. She is one of the 1 in 4 girls aged 15 to 19 that are al­ready moth­ers or preg­nant with their first child, with higher chances of ob­stet­ric fis­tula, ma­ter­nal death. Asked if she had any sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion prior to her en­counter, she chuck­les timidly and an­swers in the neg­a­tive, she also says she thought the first time would not re­sult in a preg­nancy. One can only won­der, if she had had knowl­edge about the dan­gers she now faced, would she have done things dif­fer­ently?

Com­pre­hen­sive Sex­u­al­ity Ed­u­ca­tion in­tends to cure some of the afore­men­tioned ten­den­cies. Ac­cord­ing to UNFPA, the ob­jec­tive of CSE is to en­sure that young peo­ple re­ceive com­pre­hen­sive, life skills-based sex­u­al­ity ed­u­ca­tion to gain the knowl­edge and skills to make con­scious, healthy and re­spect­ful choices about re­la­tion­ships and sex­u­al­ity. In the phrase how­ever, one word, ‘sex­u­al­i­ty’ re­ally stands out, the other com­po­nents, ‘com­pre­hen­sive and ed­u­ca­tion’ seem to get over shad­owed while the for­mer re­mains im­printed the sub­con­scious mind of many. And for some the in­ter­pre­ta­tion veers solely to ‘go ye and have sex no re­gard what­so­ever to age’ to­tally dis­re­gard­ing even as­pects of hu­man rights and gen­der em­bed­ded within.

With this mis­con­cep­tion, the sub­ject has been met with dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions some strongly sup­port­ing while oth­ers have out rightly made claim that Uganda as coun­try with morals, virtues of an African set­ting and a God fear­ing Na­tion should aban­don the con­cept or de­lay this type of ed­u­ca­tion un­til chil­dren are grown enough. Ev­i­dence like in Doris’s case points to the fact that age is no longer a thresh­old upon which de­ci­sions on sex are made.

Par­lia­ment is no dif­fer­ent, a mo­tion urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to with­draw the pol­icy on Com­pre­hen­sive Sex­u­al­ity Ed­u­ca­tion was adopted on 18th Au­gust, 2016. Hither to the adop­tion, a ma­jor­ity of the MPs stand­ing up to sec­ond of the mo­tion, pegged in­creased teen preg­nan­cies, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, in­creased preva­lence in HIV/​AIDS, teen dis­obe­di­ence, abor­tion and re­lated deaths among other things to the sub­ject. Of course, from an un­in­formed point of view, that would be the most log­i­cal as­ser­tion, the MPs ought to read a re­port or two be­cause there is ev­i­dence that CSE has had a pos­i­tive im­pact on re­pro­duc­tive and sex­ual health all over the world. Uganda has very many un­der­ly­ing is­sues that re­sult into the afore­men­tioned prob­lems and cer­tain ques­tions need to be in­ter­ro­gated be­fore such con­ver­sa­tions start. For ex­am­ple, where are teenage preg­nan­cies more preva­lent, ur­ban where or rural ar­eas where chil­dren don’t have ac­cess to this ed­u­ca­tion. ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity ten­den­cies, in which de­mo­graphic is it more preva­lent, abor­tions, HIV/​AIDS etc.

When Uganda chose ab­sti­nence-only sex ed­u­ca­tion  which en­tailed the Ab­sti­nence, Be­ing faith­ful or Us­ing a con­dom (ABC) pol­icy back in 1990,  it was ac­knowl­edged that while ‘A’ was fa­vor­able the pos­si­bil­ity of sex was im­mi­nent and there­fore adding  ‘B’ and ‘C’ was log­i­cal. As a con­se­quence, the rate of HIV/​AIDs in­fec­tions plum­meted from 15 – 5% and this was be­cause we were in touch with our re­al­ity that sex­ual ac­tiv­ity be­gan as early as age 10 also ex­ac­er­bated by child mar­riages.

To­day, we live in­for­ma­tion age, chil­dren have ac­cess to all kinds of in­for­ma­tion with the in­ter­net and mo­bile de­vices. Even in the rural ar­eas, we have bibanda loosely trans­lated as video halls are a com­mon sight and no one sieves the kind of in­for­ma­tion con­sumed. Teenagers also have lo­cal eu­phemisms for movies with adult con­tent for in­stance aka­fu­bire, em­yara, kanga. So, when we weigh the op­tions would we rather our chil­dren re­ceive well-struc­tured guid­ance in af­ter be­ing ex­posed to all kinds of in­for­ma­tion or vice verser?

Hy­po­thet­i­cally speak­ing, lets fast for­ward to a sce­nario with­out Com­pre­hen­sive Sex­u­al­ity Ed­u­ca­tion; Sex­ual re­pro­duc­tive health, HIV/​AIDS pre­ven­tion, Gen­der eq­uity, we would re­verse to a time when teenagers lacked the knowl­edge re­quired to make de­ci­sions on sex re­spon­si­bly, leav­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to co­er­cion, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions and un­in­tended preg­nancy. I highly doubt we are well placed to com­bat the ef­fects of such a de­ci­sion both in the health and hu­man rights spheres and I pray Par­lia­ment re­con­sid­ers its stance.