The crusade against comprehensive sex education by conservative and religious sectors undermines progress in Latin America and could further drive up rates of teen pregnancy, communicable diseases and abuse against girls and adolescents.
Latin America’s teenage girls are a crucial force for change and for promoting sustainable development, if the region invests in their rights and the correction of unequal opportunities, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional head of UN Women.
In most Latin American countries schools now provide sex education, but with a focus that is generally restricted to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases – an approach that has not brought about significant modifications in the behaviour of adolescents, especially among the poor.
Radhika Thapa was just 16 years old when she married a 21-year-old boy three years ago. Now, she is expecting a baby and is well into the last months of her pregnancy. This is not the first time she has been with child – her first two pregnancies ended in miscarriages.
Liberian journalist Mae Azango says she spent a year living “like a bat, going from tree to tree” with her daughter in order to escape religious fanatics who were threatening to kill her for exposing the practice of female genital mutilation in her home country last year.
Ishita Chaudhry spent the past 36 hours listening to U.N. delegates discuss population growth and development. She noticed that on “controversial” topics, such as sexual and reproductive rights, young people’s voices often get lost.
Learning about respect in a relationship, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender equality and family planning forms part of the right to sex education that is still not enjoyed by all children and adolescents in Latin America.