Breaking Taboos: Talking About Sexual Issues

Sex Education to Prevent Damage in the Future

By Mugisho Theophile, Executive Director, COFAPRI

COFAPRI encourages Nyangezi parents to be open about  sexual issues with their children.

Opening Minds in Nyangezi

Nyangezi is situated in the eastern part of DR Congo. It is almost 30 km from Bukavu, the South Kivu capital. It consists of more than 13 villages, and it is here COFAPRI decided to start with its activities of helping women and girl victims of war and domestic violence.survivors2

In the same context, children are not neglected. COFAPRI is now showing parents in which context they can be helpful, and address their children’s issues regarding sexuality.

It is often believed that the family is the place where all children get a strong and basic education. Any other education the child will get possibly depends on what the family gives to the child.

As for sexual education, COFAPRI has started to show Nyangezi parents the great role they must play for giving sexual notions to their children.

The aim of this is not to involve children in untimely sexuality, but rather, to help them avoid any person who may fool them into getting involved in sex before they are of age.

Reluctant Parents Do Not Want to Talk

Nyangezi parents are very reluctant to discuss such issues with their children.

They believe that sexual issues are taboo things that should not be told to young children. They say that, “children will know it when time comes”.

This is true, but it may be too late, because children may contract awful diseases like sexually transmitted diseases (STD), AIDS, or even get untimely or unwanted pregnancies – which will be a heavy load on the parents.

Besides, this may cause shame and even culminate into domestic violence.

Sexual Education Concerns Everyone

Sexual education is a concern of everyone; parents, institutions, churches, etc.

This because the current consequences of sexuality are terrible.

In order to foster such education, it is required for parents to develop straight collaboration and open communication as a sure way to initiate  conversaton with their children, and so, protect them.

On the other hand, children's curiosity must be satisfied by their own parents, because if the latter are not collaborative with their children, they will seek satisfaction outside home – which often culminates into deviation, and so negative sexual behavior develops in the  children's minds.

The other issue is that some DRC parents in general – and Nyangezi in particular, often fail to educate their daughters on sexual matters.

Accordingly, parents send them to a third party, that is – the aunt, to talk with them about sexual issues.

The aunts do not even discuss with sexual issues with the children, but simply tell them what they know.

The child will be careful to listen to the advice, and no question is asked, as it is socially prohibited  to discuss sexual issues with grown up people.

The aunt is then supposed to tell everything about sex, particularly in case the girl child has grown up and is ready to marry.

For the boy who is of age to marry, no one tells him about sexual issues; he seeks information here and there.

Parents: Listen to Your Children

In the minds of COFAPRI, both parents – father and mother, should devote enough time to listen to their children’s questions regarding sexual issues, and not commit the child to a third party.

In most African countries, including the DRC, sexual issues remain a taboo discussion between parents and children, and even grown-up people are not allowed to discuss the issue in public.

This belief generates dire consequences, such as that some women and girls who are sexually violated, fail to report the issue.

COFAPRI believes that this should be overcome, and that people should move with time. 

Although some people are conflicted about sexuality, there is conformity as regards to the  opinion that  children's education about sexuality should begin in the home.

In fact, most of DRC parents feel unable or uncomfortable about talking seriously with their offspring regarding sexual issues in their families.

A subtle conspiracy of silence exists between some parents and children. Some parents tell themselves that they are willing to answer any questions their children might have regarding sex, but the truth is that children sense that their parents really do not want to talk about these sensitive matters.

Since both feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality, they avoid the subject.

Very few children receive direct instruction from their parents in the areas of sexuality, sexual intercourse, or even birth control.

This is sad because good parental communication about sex might forestall or postpone a child’s sexual activity.

Among those daughters who are sexually active, parental communication appears to help promote more effective contraceptive practices on the part of the adolescent.

Open Communication Will Aid in Positive Thinking

An open communication between parents and children will give the latter positive ideas regarding sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. In this way, parents will be sure to have guided their children on the right way, and not the wrong one.

Some parents refuse to argue about sex issues in their homes, which means they can never tell their children to use condoms in case they cannot apply abstinence.

Talking condoms, they say, is to push children into early sexuality.

But such parents forget that though they may keep silent,  the children are well-informed about everything from the outside, which  often includes destructive information.

Parents who are willing to assist their children by discussing sexuality in their homes, help them learn to cope with it – and they have a better chance of raising healthy and sexually responsible children, than parents who avoid the issues.

Parents should make themselves accessible so that young people who can talk freely with their parents about sex will be stronger and more able to make wise choices as they grow to adulthood.

To the same issue, very few children receive a meaningful sex education from their parents.

Girl children are usually told about menstruation; the balance of parents’ teaching, however, could be summed up in one word: don't.

Besides, except for the occasional or single pre-puberty talk with the father – who is used to vague birds and bees analogies, and ended by mentioning the use of condom, the boy children are on their own.

Parents' Strictness Relates to Sexual Attitudes

It is believed that parents’ strictness of parenting is related to adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behaviours.

This can be hypothesized via a relationship between flexibility in parenting and sexual behavior.

Sexual promiscuity and the experience of intercourse seem to be high among teenagers who see their parents as not being strict or as not having any rules, and lowest among those teens who report that their parents are moderately strict.

The results of this is that if parents are really concerned about adolescent sexual behavior, they can err in two directions: that is, either by being concerned, being too lenient, or too rigid.

The more balanced levels are related to more responsible sexual behavior on the part of adolescents.

Be Open With Your Children

COFAPRI wants the parents in the DRC in general, and those of its members, to be very open with to their children in the home regarding sexual issues.

This in fact would help these children very much in their future in every aspect of life.

If not, children will collect vague and destructive ideas on sexuality from here and there, and so they can be easily duped.

If parents listen carefully to their children’s questions, this will help them very much to avoid being fooled about sexuality and contracting dangerous and deadly diseases.

In this way, COFAPRI is sure to have protected children who are the future of our society. This will for sure have been a good example for our children, and it may even affect them in the future – and even when they get their ownchildren they can also treat them the way they were treated in their background.

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