Sex education fears misplaced

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 1998, 12:00am

There has been a recent debate in these columns about various aspects of sex education for children and youths.

The lingering concern of many parents is whether sex education encourages sexual activity, along the lines that 'if you teach children how to bake cakes, they want to bake cakes.' I have recently completed a review of all the published literature on sex education, including a huge database at John Hopkins University's Population Information Program.

The conclusion is very clear: sex education does not encourage youths to experiment with sex earlier, and it does not increase frequency of sex activity, even in programmes where condoms are supplied.

Paradoxically, abstinence-only programmes are the only exception to this, where the only message is 'Don't do it'.

The odd thing about sex education is, however, that all programmes teach about responsibility, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

We still seem fearful of teaching children that sex can be great.

Dr JUDITH MACKAY Director Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control