Sexual education: the key issue of reproductive health


Sexual education: the key issue of reproductive health

R. Cacciatore

The Sexual Health Clinic, Family Federation of Finland

Since mid ‘70s, when Finnish youth started to receive

sexuality education in school, and sexual health services developed, the

national teen pregnancy, abortion and STI rates dropped dramatically, and

steadily declined thereafter. This success was a direct result of strong

commitment to comprehensive sexuality education and the availability of free,

confidential health services for teens. Adolescent abortion and SDI rates rose

again in the late ‘90s, when a fiscal crisis in Finland resulted in major

funding cuts in health services. At the same time, sexuality education was no

longer mandatory. Fortunately, the disturbing trends of the late ‘90s sparked

a renewed commitment to the needs of young people. In 2002, Finland made

emergency contraception available over the counter and most schools resumed

health education, including sexual health. Starting in 2006, comprehensive

sexuality education once again will be required in all schools. Already, Finland’s

national teen pregnancy and abortion rates have begun to decline.

To public health experts the evidence is clear: When government,

churches, social institutions and families fully support comprehensive sexuality

education and services, our young people benefit; when that support is removed

— whether for fiscal, political or ideological reasons — the next cohort of

young people suffers the consequences of our neglect.

Parents, teachers and counsellors need good models to support

and to protect the sexual development of a child. Sexuality is one of the most

intimate areas of one’s personality, yet education is needed, and children

have thirst after information and understanding. It is important to know how

sexuality matures, and which are the possibilities to support and strengthen

self-esteem and socio-emotional skills of children.

The in Finland widely used sexuality education model “Nine

Steps of Sexuality” has been created towards strengthening children’s and

adolescents’ self-esteem. Children are taught about the stages of sexual

development through the elements of biology, emotion and reason. This helps them

to understand the slow process and strong feelings they are going through, and

gives them strategies to resist outer pressure and to estimate own maturity and

risks. It helps them not to hurry, and to handle the developmental turbulence,

as well as the confusing information of the media.

“The Nine Steps of Sexuality” describes the sexual

maturation through the great power of love. In the beginning, by loving, the

child forms an image of own individuality and competence and then, step-by-step

by loving, finds the way out from the parental home. First the youngster is

curiously dreaming, then becoming aware of the real possibility and finally

acting to seek own partnership and happiness in an equal human relation. During

this process a person can reach ability to love – not only to have intercourse:

the possibility to combine physical and emotional joy, respecting oneself and

the partner and taking all responsibility of all acts one does.

“The Nine Steps of Sexuality” has been written by Erja

Korteniemi-Poikela and Raisa Cacciatore and it has been published by the

National Board of Education in Finland.

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