Being born and raised in the cultural setting of the Eastern-kissed Island that we thrive in can place you in the grip of cardinal customs and unspoken rules; which would, when breached, result in a social dilemma revolving around the disorder of the silent regulation.
But, how often is it that society steps out of the common thought process to grasp details behind the "why" of a certain implementation?
A question like this is certain to rise, given the intricate details that contrive the subject of "Sexuality".
Sexuality as defined by a multitude of validated sources speaks of the human desire to fulfil sexual needs and how it concerns the practices that the act follows up with.
Just like any other sociological factor it is essentially a common and a well-known norm that is played around with for the sake of pleasure or to sustain humanity.
But the flaw is that the mental systems running in Sri Lanka view the topic as one that is to be hushed off when communicated about and is therefore subjected to being brittle; but then again, anything brittle is breakable, such is the result of tabooing sexual ventures.
The silencing of sexual communication heavily impacts the practice methods, and therein lands a heavy blow on the Health of an individual.
The more barricaded the exploration of the subject is, the lesser the knowledge we instil in the youth of society; leading to misconceptions and poor understanding on what the next move is.
It is a must as of now to know that the weak educational governance of the matter has currently lead to eminent studies on Child Pregnancies and abortion, Unhygienic Sexual Practices, Transmittance of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), Violence against women, Violence against LGBT+ communities and many more touched by the scope of sexuality. The very existence of such matters being researched internationally and nationally should hint that somewhere down the line and continuing is a sociological fault that must be dissociated.
- Life Input –
As a student studying Healthcare, I can assure you that my early upbringing, with regards to “Sexual Health” did not heavily explore Sexual Education as best as it should have been; the mere thought of “Sex” was a humorous aspect during Grade 6, when we were first introduced to such a so-called “embarrassing” topic. I remember how my fellow classmates would sneer or giggle at the very thought that there were photos of nude men and women in the Biology text book, the graphical depictions of sexual intercourse, and the whole concept being a joke; added to this the vague teachings and notes that were delivered to us, along with the idea of the kids joking around too much not being addressed by the teachers, rendered the presence of the subject useless, as there was no solid attempt made to teach a substantial amount of knowledge on Sexual Health. It took me till Grade 8 to understand the concept behind “Mummy, how are children made?” and having learned the little bit that we were thought, all those who exceled well in revision quizzes or monthly exams based on “Human Reproduction” were teased for being a “Master in Sex”, and hence the earnestness to care for additional life-impacting lessons on sexual health died against the mockery of peers.
But what stood out the most was that “detailed” and “elaborate” Sexual Education was put forth during our Cambridge O/Ls and A/Ls, by which time the batch had divided between Science and Commerce, meaning that one half of the batch did not understand Sex Ed as well as us Science students knew, and the fact that Sex Ed wasn’t necessarily a conversation starter, by the means of the taboo, the conveying of the additional knowledge to our fellow batch mates on the other side was never made to a degree of relevant importance”.
Approaching consequential factors individually, the most commonest and uprising issue we have is “Violence against women”, where sexually frustrated men predate on women hoping for sexual release, and this is SEVERLY, by all sense of the word, damaging to women in the long-run. Proper sexual practices being thought to male youth (majority gender that enforces the act) would tell them how to avert such vulgar behavior and act in accordance to proper law, because any individual has the right to deny sex and that verdict can NOT be broken, it is sacred. Rape has led to many deaths, suicidal attempts, post-incidental suicide amongst women and is also one of the ways by which STDs are transmitted to women; in addition to this, unplanned pregnancies have led to the start-up of families at an inconvenient time, which burdens the female victim, and to make it all worse, this is also a result of “abortions” being an offense, due to religious concerns or even the maintenance of the “family’s reputation”. Safe abortion should be made legal for it is not an easy task to carry on the burden of raising a child at a stage where it was uncalled for.
Flowing with that topic, another reason for unplanned pregnancies and the contracting of venereal diseases is the lack of knowledge of sexual barriers; condoms, contraceptive pills etc.
Condoms being the most effective form of protection is not given enough seriousness, as it is an “embarrassment” to buy a packet of condoms, or it’s an “irrelevant” item; little is known of how Condoms can be of great aid in protecting against diseases and conception.
Moving on to a much underdeveloped and shameful topic, with regards to Sri Lankan standards, is the Sexual Health and care given to LGBT+ communities and Sex workers; in a country where varying sexual orientation and sex work is prohibited, it is a massive deal for people to come out into the open about what concerns them. While heterosexuality is supported to a certain extent by educational means, homosexuality is not, and neither is the lifestyle of sex worker, as no support is being provided to the communities. For a member of the rainbow, it is difficult to commit to their preference safely, as they are not aware of what is to be done, and furthermore even things were to go haywire, WHO would be willing to tend to their Sexual Health, in an island bearing heavy disgust? In addition to this how is a sex worker to access healthcare perks when they can’t be open about their work? In both cases, the sexual act is of inevitable circumstances.
- Life Input –
I’ve heard of many cases of rape occurring around the country, and there was once a conversation that came up where it was stated that legalizing prostitution could sort out the matter of rape, as men need a source of relief and when they can access it, they can hold themselves back from acting on desperation. This was further backed up by the person also stating that certain Asian countries have really low rape cases due to such a law being passed around; though the topic should still be up for debate on whether or not this would be helpful or awful.
On a more personal note, it would be much more effective to implement powerful standards on drilling proper sexual education and equivalent rights into people at their schooling stages, for school is the base of a child’s future, and furthermore even parents themselves shouldn’t have to shy away and come up with excuses about “the talk” with their children.
Standing with the members of the LGBT+ community it is very noticeable that the support towards the group is not definite and that it is in no way a choice to freely ask for healthcare privileges, as the very thought of variant sexualities is frowned upon, and to make it all worse in some regions of the world AIDS has been referred to as the “Gay Disease”. But there is improvement slowly being made, as I have personally learnt healthcare inclusive of treatment and ethics for LGBT+ members (during the course of my higher education) given their needs, although this is only being done as it is to assist the western countries that we are affiliated to, as the students are expected to carry out with such knowledge in foreign countries where we are destined to be placed at, meaning that Sri Lanka is yet to change its ways; but as an individual who would oversee this, even if I am to forcibly carry out medical practices here in Sri Lanka, I cannot reach out to my patients, for they are too skeptical and vary about coming out and being comfortable. Evading sexual health for both LGBT+ members and sex workers is a major issue, for any sexually affected patients will have to suffer in silence.
Furthermore, healthcare is expected to be holistic from what I have learnt thus far, and a key component of defining holistic is that it governs more than just the physicality of the affected individual, it is also expected to look upon the mental, emotional and social wellbeing of the patient; and if Lankan Healthcare cannot follow up with it, we are in dire need of an innovative change instantaneously.
In conclusion, it is high time to put aside the stigma that Sexual Health is faced with and be more open and outspoken about the subject, for it is practically a matter that can determine life and death, it is of no surprises, it is very common and is in need of colossal attention at this point; many major ongoing health cases are in direct relation with the way the country perceives the priority of Sexual Health, and it is a case that needs to be placed further up the concerns of the country. Any and every nonsensical talk about the reason why Sexual Health must be diminished should be cast aside, a certain degree of equality and equity must be put forth in providing health with regards to sexuality, a clever and well-planned system should be Implemented to tear down walls and push forth the relevance and need of better education in health care, a gay man should be able to act on his needs safely, a female should be given the choice to look into her own sexual healing without facing society-based judgment, and people in general need the necessary means of understanding how their Sexuality and Reproductive Health is a topic that can be comfortably discussed without any discrimination or disregarding remarks.
- K. R. Vishal