Comprehensive Sex Ed, the one-size-fits-all solution
How do we fix female poverty? Comprehensive Sex-Ed. How do we decrease maternal and child mortality rates? Comprehensive Sex-Ed. How do we eliminate child forced marriages? Comprehensive Sex-Ed. Yes, no matter the issues, comprehensive sexuality education is the answer. At least that’s what some activists at the recent 59th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations were claiming. To these people, comprehensive sex-ed is a one size fits all solution to issues facing women around the world. No matter the issues, comprehensive sex-ed is the answer.
During the Canadian hosted event titled Canada Child, Early and Forced Marriage - Indicators for Progress Canada presented a genuine problem in many places in the world and offered a variety of countries anecdotal references for its causes and solutions. One such example came from a representative from Jordan. She explained that many of the women who are forced into early marriage is a consequence of conflict zone issues. To be granted asylum as a refugee or to gain immigration to another country, men find easier accessibility when they are married. Furthermore, many parents feel their daughters would be safer than in their present condition. The insight given to us by this Jordan representative gave evidence that many of the reasons for child forced marriage is a complex issue that includes immigration and refugee status, economic pressures and the difficulties of conflict zones. Furthermore, other representatives from countries such as India and Kenya described the cultural pressures and economic incentives for such marriages to be considered beneficial for both husbands and families.
Immediately after hearing truly devastating circumstances that allow for such marriages to occur a Planned Parenthood consultant and a representative of the International Women’s Health Coalition, suggested that the implementation of comprehensive sex-ed is the solution to this growing problem. I am unsure if this suggestion resonated with most people in the room but I found it outrageous. I sat there questioning how teaching young girls about gender identity, sexual rights, abortion and contraception could alleviate the cultural, economic and conflict related circumstances that justified child marriage. How anyone could suggest sex-ed as a solution to these devastating and complex injustices still baffles me.
Instead of comprehensive sex-ed, what about educating leaders about the immorality of child forced marriage? Parents need to be advised on how marrying off their young daughters to men who are decades older than them will not benefit their precious girls. They need to be shown the potential of their daughters and need to be encouraged to provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. Furthermore real solutions can include imposing strict laws on child forced marriages. These laws can include restrictions on marriages for those under the age of 18 and the necessity for these marriages to include consent from both parties. To ensure these laws are upheld, there needs to be the inclusion of the community as to have whistleblower programs to protect young women being forced into marriage to inform the authorities. There are many relevant intervention techniques that can help save these children which can be effective and easy to implement.
My message to those who are offering interventions for this problem is to start listening to the real problems and needs of your member states. Start understanding that each state has complex and interwoven social, economic, and cultural concerns. Address each state or even region as unique entities and provide relevant intervention strategies to solve their actual problems. And finally please stop imposing your agenda of comprehensive sexual education as a one-size-fits-all answer to the complex injustices facing women of the 21st century.