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Culture of Silence

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Parents cover their children’s eyes while watching TV

A popular joke is shared on social media especially whatsApp that a boy, Dery was watching television with his parents when a man and a woman started kissing on the screen of the television, as the heat between them increased, the father of the boy was not comfortable so he quickly shouted “Dery have you ironed the car?” So hilarious, isn’t it? Even though this is just a joke, it is so true. It is very common to find many Ghanaian parents change the channel of the television when a romantic scene appears on the channel they are watching. Or parents will ask children to run errands when such scenes are been shown. Some may even close the eyes of their children! THE WORD SEX ITSELF IS A TABOO! One cannot easily mention “penis” or “vagina”, we use private parts instead because that sounds more polite. Parents will give nicknames like “grandmother and grandfather” to the vagina and penis when they are addressing children.

In many Ghanaian communities, especially in the rural communities, a lot of young secondary school girls are falling out of school on account of unwanted pregnancies. Many others end up with sexual transmitted disease such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and

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Young people have reproductive rights which they can only enjoy when they have the right information

even the much dreaded HIV/AIDS. There have also been a lot of reported cases of some of these young girls who loose their lives in the process of trying to terminate the pregnancies due to little or no information and knowledge on reproductive health issues. Anything that has to do with sex is totally swept under the carpet in Ghana. Sex education is not taught in schools and a lot of  parents (including mine) shy away from sex education, they often see sex education as a taboo  which must not be mentioned, to talk of teaching it. Meanwhile, children are expected to make good decisions regarding their sexuality.

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Signposts are used to educate people on sex in Ghana

The result of this attitude is that many young girls rely on misguided information from their peers which often result in unwanted pregnancies and sometimes loss of lives from illegal abortion.

 

In some Ghanaian homes, children share the same sleeping rooms their parents which make them more vulnerable to reproductive health risk if they are not given access to the right information. In such cases, parents have to find all kinds of excuses and put up so many tricks with their children anytime they want to have sexual intercourse. Some children may pretend to be sleeping but watch everything the parents are doing which they will later practice among themselves. It will interest you to know that a lot young girls cannot walk up to their parents (not even their mothers) and ask them for money to buy sanitary towels when they are menstruating. If girls cannot walk up to their parents and ask for sanitary towels, do you think they will be able to discuss more personal issues with their parents? Then again, a lot of people cannot walk into a pharmacy and buy a condom confidently (you will find some scratching their heads and other chewing their fingernails or turning round to see if there are other customers around).

Contrary to what a lot of us think in Ghana, it is very important to know that there have not been any study of comprehensive programs to date that has provided evidence that making information and education on sexual and reproductive health

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Teaching young people especially girls about reproductive health is a step to saving a life

available to young people have resulted in  increased sexual risk-taking. While parents expect teachers to teacher children about reproductive health, teachers also see it as the role of the parent. We find it very strange and unusual when parents try to educate their children about reproductive health.We see it to mean “spoiling the child”.  It takes an extra brave parent to do so.

 

Reproductive health education in itself is not bad because people are given access to information on reproductive rights, avenues for seeking reproductive health care are also made available to them as they say ignorance is a disease. According to the WHO, reproductive health implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. One interpretation of this implies that men and women ought to be informed of and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; also access to appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicines and implementation of health education programs to stress the importance of women o go safely through pregnancy and childbirth could provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_health)

Our culture of silence on the issue has not in any way prevented information communication technology from exposing young people to sexuality more largely  on

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Silence culture on reproductive health education has so many implications

the negative aspect of it. Neither has it stopped children from becoming sexually active, nor has it been able to reverse the growing negative repercussion of teenage pregnancy that bedevil our country. Young people are learning about sexuality the hard way and that is what is causing us trouble. The irony of it all is that, when young people fall victims to negatives of reproductive health, we always say “we told you but you did not listen”.

Sex education does not only ensure that lives  are saved but it also means that young girls will be able to stay in school and compete with their male counterparts. Sex education will help young people to make useful and healthy decisions about their sexuality which will prevent unwanted pregnancies, hence, they will stay in school. This also means that there will be a drop in maternal deaths. Apart from that, young people

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Teach a child the way he should go and he will never depart from it.

will be educated about their reproductive rights, they will know there are facilities available for them to seek the necessary support should there be the need. Quite recently however, there have been some adverts on television, radio and in the print media education in an attempt to make information on reproductive health available to the public. Names like Akuma Mama Zimbi and Dr. Ntiamoah come to mind when we talk about reproductive health in Ghana.

A lot of young people, girls especially, will be saved from sexual abuse and it’s related

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Young people have the right to the right information

consequences. Statistics indicate that in Ghana “27% of women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, 1 in 3 women had been fondled or touched against their will, for 2 in 10 women their first experience of sex was against their will, 2 in 5 women are harassed or coerced when they refuse their partners sex, 3 in 10 women are forced by their male partners to have sex, 7% of women had been forced to touch a man’s private parts, 6% of women had been threatened by a school-teacher or principal that their schooling would suffer if they did not have sex, 4% of women had been threatened with demands for sex before offered a job or having a favour done, studies indicate that women are most at risk of sexual violence, in all its forms, are between the ages of 10-18 years”. (gendercentreghana.org)

aaaAre we going to watch in silence as more and more young people especially girls suffer? I think it is time for us to take the bull  by the horns and help our young people to make the right decisions about their sexuality to save the future of our nation. CHEERS!

Reference

 1995 – 2016 Gender Studies & Human Right Documentation Centre accessed on 19th August, 2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_health  accessed on 19th August, 2016

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10 Comments

  1. Great thoughts you share. In real Ghanaian terms, the issue of sex education is a mirage always pursued by a few educated elites. The reason is it is talked about by everyone but it is a subject matter that does not have a formula.
    I mean in schools, you will not find a book that clearly teaches how to approach this sensitive issue. In effect, parents, teachers, pastors and even counsellors are not able to talk about it effectively to get the young adults or adolescents to abstain from sex.
    Only a handful of people are able to do it effectively for results. Looking critically at the entire landscape of Ghana, you would say that the number of people with adequate skills in reproductive health is so minute that we will continue to have this menace of teenage pregnancy on our hand for some time to come.
    For many parents it is by the grace of God if their children remain obedient to them and don’t dall victims to the menace of teenage pregnancy till they become adults.
    Why are the existing efforts failing?
    In my view,
    1 Excessive exposure to comments that glorify sex in our music and movies are responsible
    2 Lack of parental control in monitoring and following up on children to track friends in town and in school.
    3 Weakness or fall in traditional values that kept children at home at night including wake keepings and night jams.
    4 Unavailability of social institutions that give help to young adults especially in the villages or a general ignorance of their availability and what they do.

    The way forward
    1 A new subject should be introduced in the basic school curriculum or a new topic developed extensively on the subject matter and added in bits to all the grades of the basic and second cycle institutions.
    2. Both government and NGOs must commit resources to the training of teachers and other care givers to acquire skills on how to effectively handle reproductive health issues.
    3. It is not everyone who should counsel children on this. Some end up taking advantage of the young ones especially the girls.
    4. Religious leaders must also receive extra training on how to deal with sex education and all the issues that concern reproductive health and find a place or events on their church calendar where these things can be taught.
    5. Old adults who find pleasure in chasing young girls who could pass as their daughters or their little sisters should stop such habits because they confuse these young ones a lot when they should know better.
    6. Parents must begin to have family sizes they can cater for instead of having large family sizes they cannot manage thereby exposing their children to the dangers out there especially the girls; who in their quest cut corners to get basic necessities of life their parents could not give them.

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