Did you know that Japan is considered a backward country in terms of sex education?
The UN's International Sexuality Education Guidance, an international guide to sexuality education, includes 'explaining where babies come from' at ages 5-8 and 'explaining how pregnancy occurs and can be avoided' at ages 9-12. It provides age-specific learning objectives for sexuality education, such as 'identify contraceptive methods', and recommends that specific sexuality education is provided from an early age.
So early?' Some may think that it is too early to teach health education. Here we will consider together why sex education is necessary and how learning about sex education can help you grow.
Sex education from an early age prevents unwanted pregnancies
According to the '2019 Health Administration Report: Summary of Results' compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, there were approximately 156,430 cases of abortion in Japan. Although there has been a downward trend in all age groups in recent years, 12,678 of these cases, or approximately 8%, were performed on women under the age of 20, with 5,440 cases on women aged 19, followed by 3,285 cases on women aged 18.
The Japanese Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has identified the following six reasons behind unexpected pregnancies and mentioned the need for sex education.
1. have sexual intercourse
2. unaware of how pregnancy works
3. lack of knowledge of contraception
4. do not know how to count the number of weeks of pregnancy
5. do not know that abortion is only available up to 21 weeks 6 days
6. lack of knowledge about their own bodies
(Source: Japanese Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) ）
Japan's lagging sex education.
Sex education in Japan is based on school teaching guidelines, with menstruation and semen, taught in fourth-year health and physical education in primary schools, reproductive functions taught in fifth-year science, and fertilisation and pregnancy are taught in junior high school, but the process and progression leading to pregnancy is not covered in elementary and junior high schools.
This means that they do not learn the correct knowledge about the act of conception and contraception at school, and are sexually active without knowing whether the knowledge they have acquired from their seniors, classmates or through the internet is really correct or really sufficient.
Unprotected sex can increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases as well as pregnancy. In fact, syphilis is on the increase in Japan, especially among younger age.
That is why we can prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections by knowing how pregnancy works, the correct contraceptive methods and by having a good knowledge of our own bodies and knowledge about sexually transmitted infections. This is the international standard for sex education, and the Japanese Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has voiced the opinion that if it is not taught by the end of compulsory junior high school education, it will be too late.
Teaching children about 'private zones' to prevent sexual exploitation
Sex education from an early age can help prevent sexual exploitation. Particularly important is an understanding of the 'private zone'. The 'private zone' is the part of the body that is hidden when wearing a swimming costume and the mouth, which is usually hidden. As these are important parts of the body that are only for you, you need to teach them the basics of 'not letting others see or touch' and 'not looking at or touching other people's things' in a simple, gentle and repetitive way.
According to the Cabinet Office's Survey on Violence between Men and Women conducted in FY2020, 8.8% of women and 5.9% of men were victims of sexual intercourse or other sexual harm as minors before entering primary schools, women (11.2%) and men (11.8%) during primary schools and women (4.0%) and men (11.8%) when they were in junior high school. The report also highlights the urgent need for measures to prevent sexual harm to children.
If someone asks you to 'show' or 'touch' your 'private zone' or does something you don't like, it is also important to clearly say 'no' and run away from the situation. We need to tell them that as a parent, you want them to talk to you about it, to protect your child from sexual harm.
In addition, understanding that the private zone is an important place not only protects you, but also fosters respect for others, which in turn helps to prevent perpetrators.
The aforementioned International Sexuality Education Guidance states that the learning objective for 15-18 year olds is to 'distinguish between reproduction, sexual function and sexual desire' and specifies that' consent is always necessary for both partners in a sexual relationship.
Sex education makes sexual behaviour more prudent and fosters respect for others
The reason for Japan's lag in sex education seems to be a sense of not wanting to wake up a sleeping child, but various studies have shown that sex education does not tend to accelerate the age of sexual intercourse; rather, it makes it more prudent.
It has been pointed out that unexpected pregnancies and births among young people can trigger the loss of belongingness such as school and home. In addition, the number of cases of young women who have lost their place in society and become victims of sexual exploitation through social networking services has recently increased, and this has become a social problem. Although each person's background is different, it must be addressed. One of these is the importance of imparting correct sexual knowledge.
However, many parents and children are reluctant to discuss sex with each other because school subjects do not teach realistic information and, at home, the parents' generation has not received proper sex education.
This is why initiatives by obstetricians and gynaecologists, midwives, nurses and non-profit organisations to visit schools and provide sex education are now spreading in many parts of the country.
Recognising that sex and genitalia are neither disgusting nor dirty, but 'important' and 'to be respected', is also important for understanding basic human rights. Sex education needs to be enhanced in order to prevent the creation of both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence.
The right knowledge and information is what makes sexuality positive and creates the basis for a happy life.