Sexual Taboos for Children and Teenagers in Public Education: Understanding what is not written.

Title: Sexual Taboos for Children and Teenagers in Public Education: Understanding what is not written.

Authors: João Victor Coimbra França; Jaci de Lourdes Sousa Costa

NMO: IFMSA Brazil

University: State University of Piauí (UESPI)

Theme: Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS (SCORA)

Human sexuality is one of the pillars of living in society, but it’s been a taboo for centuries. Hence, some families and schools often refuse to explain or to forearm their minors about so, leading to misconceptions in children and teenagers over sexuality and sexual health(1). Therefore, the young are more vulnerable to problems like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and teenage pregnancies(2). The latter hovers around 18 million cases per year and 18% of Brazilian births(3). Thus, actions raising minors’ awareness about the details of sexual and reproductive health are indispensable.

Based on such a scenario, this project was created and accomplished in September 2018, by medical undergraduates from State University of Piauí (UESPI), conjoined with IFMSA and the Social Service of Commerce (SESC), a national non-profit organization that invests in various social sectors like education. Before the event, the partner institutions capacitated the medical students, orienting how to address the minors properly. Then, upon arrival, everyone in the school was split into two groups, male and female, for separate lectures. Next, didactical posters, anatomical props and condoms were used to lecture (ceded by SESC). Afterwards, questions were asked by medical students, using anonymous notes.

It was observed that, in the male group, despite some jokes and laughter from the listeners and many scolds from the principal, the lecture had ample attention and participation. The only moment of complete disharmony happened during the condom use demonstration on an artificial anatomical prop. In the female group, however, there was initial resistance, with some distancing from the lecture, affirming reasons of embarrassment or contrary religious beliefs, but the denial slowly dissipated, thanks to dialogue with the speakers and school staff.

The anonymous notes, though, had confusing grammar and some were illegible (the following notes were corrected for better understanding). In the male group, questions like “Why do women lack oxygen during sex? ”, “Is it possible to masturbate with a condom on”, were asked. However, some were on sensitive subjects, such as “Is it wrong to have sex with your cousin? ”. The female group also asked simple questions, like “why does the vagina stink? ”, and “is it possible to get pregnant during a period? ”. After the lecture, a 13-year-old approached the speakers, affirming to have done an abortion at age 12, using medicinal herbs, and, since then, she had alleged vaginal discharge and severe pelvic pain. The girl was duly oriented to schedule an appointment at a UBS and to communicate with a family member, as soon as possible.

Hence, it can be concluded that bigger incentives for discussions in schools about sexual health and sexuality is necessary. This can be done through more interdisciplinary approaches to these subjects like teaching about the biological, functional, social, spiritual and mental aspects. Furthermore, internationally, programs benefitting sexual education must be stimulated by all governments, so that the crescent consequences of the current misconceptions and taboos of sexuality, sex and reproduction on minors diminish.

References

1.    SILVA, R. M. da. Sex education in middle school: preachings and practices of parents and teachers [dissertation]. Brasília-DF: Catholic University of Brasília; 2015.

2.    Almeida RAAS, Corrêa R da GCF, Rolim ILTP, Hora JM da, Linard AG, Coutinho NPS, et al. Knowledge of adolescents regarding sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem [Internet]. 2017 out;70(5):1033–9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7167-2016-0531

3.    Brazilian Medical Association. Teenage pregnancy, 400 thousand cases per year in Brazil. 2019. Available from: https://amb.org.br/noticias/gravidez-na-adolescencia/. [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019.]