When a child asks his parents that where did he arrive from, the usual reply is god, carriage, heaven, and the clouds. Such vague answers often mislead children which further complicate their perceptions about sexuality. The topic of human sexuality has always resulted in a variety of mixed reactions depending upon the culture, age and society to which it is addressed to. This makes it a sensitive subject which requires to be dealt carefully because of the positive as well as negative effects which are associated with sexuality. In this regard, the tool of delivering information regarding human sexuality involving anatomy of the human body, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, birth control and relationships is commonly referred to as sex education which is often imparted by parents, trainers and teachers.
Human sexuality has a physical, biological and an emotional aspect attached to it which is often explained under sex education. While the biological side incorporates the function of the reproductive system in humans, the physical and emotional part of sexuality talks about love and the intimate bond that is created between the partners. As a matter of fact, individuals are quite curious about their sexuality which they aim to explore especially during the onset of puberty. However, the traditional image of sexuality was seen as a taboo which is still seen to exist in several societies today. Due to this perception, sexual information is obtained through friends, media, internet and other such sources which often misguide, misrepresent and depict a contradictory idea about sexuality. On the basis of this deficiency, sex education took its roots (Araujo M, 2008).
Sex education was initially formulated during the period between 1880 and 1920 with the concern of a highly disciplined and respected group of people who were keen to address the pressing issue of prostitution and the inclining rate of pregnancy and diseases (Araujo M, 2008). Consequently, these people established the first organization in America; American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) with an aim to support sex education in relation to the curriculum. Following this, several organizations were established and many joined to be a part of ASHA. All these organizations had a core belief; to educate individuals about the hazards related to unsafe sexual practices, promiscuity, prostitution and the truth of venereal diseases. In other words, these bodies believed that educating the youth would prevent the spread of venereal diseases.
On the basis of this, it was in 1919 that sex education began to incorporate in schools via the efforts of U.S. Public Health Service (Brandt 1987). As a matter of fact, it is the changing political policies, cultural shift and wars which have increased the spread of venereal diseases, teenage pregnancies, and other consequences of sex which has made sex education important to be introduced in the school curriculum. Therefore, sex education is a topic which does not only cover the realm of sexual intercourse but it comprises of issues pertaining to human relationships, intimacy, love, birth control, abstinence, venereal diseases and safe sexual practices. On the basis of this, sex education has always been a controversial topic because of the divide on imparting either abstinence-only education as compared to comprehensive sex education. While the abstinence-only program emphasizes on keeping away from sex before marriage, comprehensive programs do not stop the practice of sex amongst teenagers or adolescents and neither do they focus on sex after marriage. Instead, this program is more about birth control and safer sex practices. Hence, the debate about these two programs continues to exist till today which makes sex education a controversial topic.
As mentioned earlier, the issue of sex education especially early sex education is not acceptable by every individual mainly because of the difference based on culture and other factors. While it is accepted in several states across America, Armenia is more concerned about the negative of sex education. This is mainly attributed to the facts presented by research which outlines the idea that children who are exposed to sexual material at an earlier age are quite sexually active opting for unsafe sexual practices. One of the main reasons for considering sex education as inappropriate is due to the incomplete role of education to help prevent sex amongst younger individuals. This is evident from the increasing percentage of adolescents and teenagers who are involved in sex. This shows that educating them on their sexuality do not really help reduce such practices. Moreover, the way in which information regarding sex is delivered, may often produce unwanted results. In other words, over educating a child or telling him more than what he deserves to know at his age might make him more vulnerable to adopt sex out of curiosity and adventure. In addition, it is not only sex and the resulting pregnancies which arise because of early sex education, but it is also the increase in rape cases and sexual assaults (Melikyan G. L, 1999).
Armenia is a closed and a conservative society which makes the topic of sex a taboo. For this reason, the decision to incorporate sex education in the school curriculum results in a raised eyebrow. With 210 HIV cases in 2003, Armenia is a former republic of the Soviet Union which continues to face the issue of HIV, prostitution, abortion and premarital sex where all these aspects are still considered not to be discussed by the educators not only because of the untrained professionals, but also due to the underlying belief that when the time will come, children would eventually know about human sexuality (CDC, 2001). Basing the belief on this idea at one point might contribute to the high risk that is associated with unsafe (early) sex practice, but on the other hand it also makes a point by outlining the minimal outcome of sex education. The role of sex education might be an issue related to taboos and societies such as Armenia do not accept it. Despite wrong information being transferred to the youth via the liberalized media, the Armenian society continues to show reluctance towards sex education which is not widely incorporated in the school curriculum.
Although health education is not widely included in the school curriculum that would emphasize upon topics related to human sexuality because of the nature of the Armenian society, the young Armenians between ages 17 and 21 continue to be sexually active. Regardless of the cultural preferences regarding such sensitive, important and controversial issues, it is the teaching methodology which often keeps people away from giving it a try. In other words, it is the traditional debate between abstinence and comprehensive programs which inculcate the view that sex education would rather instigate fear amongst the students. Not only this, closed conservative societies do not prefer exposing such information to their youngsters via another non-family medium. Also, families are not so close to their children that they begin to educate them on the issue of sex. In contrast, such societies do not only stop other institutes from educating their children, but are also reluctant to be a part of the expedition. This hesitance is because of the fact that sex education is not suitable for minds which have not yet developed. Exposing them to human sexuality would make them more curious that would instead of keeping them away from getting involved in such practices; make them more curious to try it in order to experience it. In this way, instead of minimizing the negative consequences of early unsafe premarital sex, such sexual behavior would rather increase. This would eventually result in higher number of teen pregnancies which would not be considered an issue for the teenagers because of the abortion option available for them. In this way, sex education would in turn undermine the value, worth and sanctity of sex which is an after marriage practice especially in cultures like that of Armenia. In addition to the curiosity and adventure that would attract the children and adolescents, information regarding the different dimensions under sexuality would give rise to assault and abuse that would further ruin the society. Therefore, on the basis of such beliefs and facts stated by research and viewed by the eye, Armenian society continues to see sex education as an insignificant step to be incorporated in the school curriculum (Melikyan G. L, 1999).
Human sexuality has been viewed from different angles generating varying perspectives on the basis of intellectuality, culture, age, gender and awareness. All these factors along with political policies, cultural shifts and regulations have created a contradictory image regarding the need to include sex education in the school curriculum. While sex education at one hand has been emphasized upon at the state level, it is seen to be a taboo at several conservative closed societies such as Armenia. On the basis of this, early sex education is considered to play a detrimental role because of usually lacking trained professionals and also due to its mixed role of abstinence and comprehensive programs which educate individuals regarding after marriage sex, and that talks about birth control without prevention respectively (Lickona, 1993). Therefore, Armenian society considers early sex education to produce negative results because of the way it attracts young individuals by enhancing their curiosity enabling them to opt for earlier, unsafe pre-marital sex which would eventually result in higher teen pregnancies, greater venereal diseases and sexual assaults. Thus, there is a dire need to not only transform the way sex education is perceived by such closed societies like Armenia, but it is actually essential to work upon the type of education that is imparted which would guarantee a reduction in the negative consequences of pre-marital unsafe sexual behavior.
Araujo, M. (2008). The effects of sex education on adolescent sexual risk taking behavior. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Stanford University, California.
Brandt, A. M. (1987). No magic bullet: A social history of venereal disease in the United States
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CDC. (2001). The Global HIV and AIDS Epidemic, 2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 50(21): 434-439
Lickona, T. (1993). Where sex education went wrong. Character Education, 51(3): 84-89.
Melikyan, G. L. (1999). HIV infection among Commercial Sex Workers in Yerevan: Findings and Policy Recommendations. Armenian Forum: A Journal of Contemporary Affairs, 2(1): 1-16
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