A Deep Look into Adolescent Sexual Health and Rights (ASHR) 

Speaking from the layman’s standpoint, “sexual health” is simply having a good sex life. Though it’s part of it, but it’s just a superficial portion of the real deal. 

A good sexual health entails “maintaining good health conditions, psychological state and healthy relationships” while having a good sexual life.

According to the “World Health Organisation”, “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

International agreements affirm that adolescents have a right to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services that enable them to deal positively and responsibly with their sexuality.

According to a research carried out by the “Action Health Incorporated”, about 50 million Nigerians (about one third of Nigeria’s population) are between the ages of 10 – 24 (Adolescent age) and more than half of the population are infected with HIV, with girls disproportionately affected. This therefore indicates that more than half of Nigeria’s adolescent population have poor sexual and reproductive health, as this is the major cause of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

According to statistical research carried out by the PubMed section of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI),  the indifferent and passive attitude of Nigerian women and girls in adolescent stage towards sexual health education has resulted in a great increase in risky sexual behaviour. About 84.5% or more get involved in premarital sex,  72.5% in unsure abortion process and 80.5% are exposed to sexually transmitted infections.

Problems of poor Sexual Health on Adolescents.

1) It is the leading cause of Sexually Transmitted Infections among adolescents, with women disproportionately affected.

2) It is also the leading cause of sexual abuse, as these persons have poor knowledge of their sexual health rights, hence are defenseless against rape,  Female Genital Mutilation, etc.

3) It leads to waste and misuse of contraceptives. Statistics have shown that one third of adolescent population do not know how to use contraceptives hence waste them.

Solutions to problems
1)Organisation of educationally concerned retreats to communities, market places and schools, educating them on their sexual rights and also on how to use contraceptives.

2) Incorporation of sexual health education as part of curricula of high schools and colleges.

3) Training of more female advocates and provision of grants for awareness campaigns and walks against gender inequality and gender based violence.

4) Provision of psychosocial support to vulnerable girls and victims of sexual abuse or any form of gender inequality. 

5) Establishment of easily accessible healthcare centers for victims of sexual molestation.

6) Train more passionate youths to advocate for female sexual health rights.

Sexual Health and Rights (SHR) encompass the right of all individuals to make decisions concerning their sexual activity free from discrimination, coercion, and violence, specifically, access to SHR ensures individuals are able to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity and to access the information and means to do so.�

In improving sexual health,  there has to be increased access to quality sex education and healthcare. Comprehensive health services include:

Contraceptive information and services, including emergency contraception and a range of modern contraceptive methods.

Safe abortion and post-abortion care;

Prevention, care, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, reproductive tract infections, and reproductive cancers;�

Universal access to comprehensive sexual health services would enable adolescent to lead healthier lives and contribute to better global health and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.�

Here are some of the sexual health rights.according to the Universal Access Project.

Right to seek, receive, and impart information related to sexuality;

Right to receive sexuality education

Right to have respect for bodily integrity;

Right to choose their sex partner.

Right to decide to be sexually active or not;

Right to have consensual sexual relations;

Right to have consensual marriage;

Right to pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life.

Author: Ekhoe-omoragbon Efosa

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