Healthy adolescent sexual development: Research for more inclusive policies and programmes
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Date: 16 July 2019
Time: 12h30 - 14:00
Venues: Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town | Vidyo
Presenters: Dr Mokhantšo Makoae, Dr Ingrid Lynch, Ms Roshin Essop, Ms Tsidiso Tolla, Dr Lorenza Fluks, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Dr Benita Moolman (University of Cape Town)
Adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) refer to all aspects of sexuality and reproduction, not simply the absence of ill health. This means that advocating for adolescents’ SRHR includes the right for adolescents to understand their changing bodies; to freely define their own sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; to decide whether and when to be sexually active; and if sexually active, the right to have safe, consensual and pleasurable experiences.
The African region has seen increased momentum in policy and programming in support of healthy adolescent sexualities. Yet, these efforts often take a narrow view of young people, without recognising the diverse needs within this group. In addition, frank discussion about adolescent sexualities remains controversial. Socio-cultural norms about preserving childhood sexual ‘innocence’ often shut down age-appropriate sexuality conversations with young adolescents in particular - illustrated in recent media debates about the introduction of school-based sexuality education to primary school learners. Consequently, the needs of adolescents who occupy marginal social positions (very young adolescents, poor young women, rural, disabled and migrant youth, and sexual/gender minorities) remain largely overlooked in policy and programming.
This seminar engages two key questions concerned with marginalised youth and SRHR. First, the seminar presents findings of a systematic review of 71 sub-Saharan African policies relevant to youth SRHR. The review is focused on the SRHR of young women and marginalised youth (including sexual and gender minority youth) and provides guidelines for policy that accounts for intersecting societal inequalities that undermine youth SRHR.
Second, it presents findings from novel South African research with very young adolescents (aged 10 to 14 years) about their self-reported pubertal and sexual milestones, and access to sexuality-related information. The research provides guidance for the question “how young is too young?” for adolescents to be introduced to SRHR programming and interventions.
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The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST
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