What do Peru and Utah Have in Common? Bad Sex Education!
Lori Adelman, Guest Contributor
This week, youth advocates from around the world are in New York for the Commission in Population and Development, the United Nations’ annual meeting on development, health and rights. This year’s meeting is focused on adolescents and youth, and these young advocates are in town to ensure that governments uphold prior commitments to advancing the sexual and reproductive rights and health of all. We sat down with Thomas Alberts, a college student from Utah and Stefanie Suclupe, a young nurse from Peru, to find out what’s at stake—at the UN and beyond—when it comes to young people and sex.
Stefanie: In Peru, there’s also there’s a lot of judgment towards young people when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. The clinic is open to everyone during the same hours. If I’m 14 and I want to get contraception, I know that probably my neighbor, my aunt, even my mom and dad might see me. This is especially true in rural areas. And, there is a law in Peru criminalizing consensual sex between minors, there’s even more fear, even more judgment. That’s what strikes me about the Commission on Population and Development. Peru, like other nations, is here to talk about development, but how can we develop Peru when teen pregnancy rates are increasing, if the maternal mortality rate among teens is increasing, if the number of unsafe abortions is increasing. How can we talk about development at a political level when we don’t listen to the reality and needs of youth on the ground? If governments listen to the voices of young people and reflect their needs at the political level, we will certainly see advancements in development – not only in Peru, but worldwide. Right now, we have the largest population of young people ever —this is the moment for change.
Thomas: I think things are kind of changing in Utah—you know there were some really harsh anti sex education bills that came up in the state legislature lately, and our governor vetoed them. And the official position of the Mormon church has become more liberal, they now say women should be educated, gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against in housing or employment, and I’ve met a lot of Mormons who are very liberal in their views on sexual education and can talk about it. And now, I’m noticing a lot of parents are a lot more liberal in their views People who are younger than me that I’ve met can actually talk to their parents about sex education and STIs and about what they need to do to be responsible, even in religious households. So things are changing and it’s starting to get better. But I would add that in order for things to continue to get better, we need more advocates fighting for sexual and reproductive rights.