Right to be informed | Sunday Observer

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Before March 2020, the world was plagued by many problems. Step into the pandemic, every problem like this paled in importance, and Covid 19 has taken the lead. They may be insignificant, but the problems prevail unless there is a cure for them. Some problems would remain to eat away at human health in the long term.

Lack of awareness of good sexual and reproductive health is a problem plaguing the country, although corrective measures are being taken to some extent. The United Nations Population Fund defines good sexual and reproductive health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The definition emphasizes the ability of people to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the ability to reproduce and the freedom of choice. The solution, as well as the remedy for the problem, is quite clear: you have to be informed and this helps protect yourself.

But average Sri Lankan youth lack exactly that: being properly informed. Although sexual and reproductive health is included in the school curriculum, it does not appear to produce effective outcomes.

Internet, the biggest challenge

The loudest cry comes from technology. The Internet poses the greatest challenge with its widely open information floodgates. The strong exodus of information only prevents the younger generation from accessing precise and relevant information. On the contrary, just one click provides easy access to cybercrime and pornography which is addictive and therefore harms human health in general. A study conducted by a team including Professor Indralal de Silva of the University of Colombo reveals how internet use among young people has increased by several times. The team’s findings indicate that it is imperative to formulate and implement policy and legal provisions to address cybercrime issues. Cybercrimes include bullying and forced sex.

The young average must be aware not only of cybercrimes and the different forms of offenses available in cyberspace, but also of the mechanism of denunciation against the perpetrators themselves. This familiarity is essential at this stage which should lead to a further expansion of current child protection policy and youth policy. Protecting against cybercrime in this way must be the back door.

It all starts in adolescence thanks to the curiosity inherent in humans. The most vulnerable group is therefore between 15 and 24 years old. Due to education, finances, and other social factors, this group consists of a predominantly single population. The study was carried out primarily to identify and explore the main sexual and reproductive problems in unmarried young people aged 15 to 24 in three districts: Hambantota, Nuwara Eliya and Puttalam.

A three-tiered data collection approach was adopted as the overall data collection methodology of the study. At the first level, information was collected from various secondary data sources including population census and various national surveys to highlight demographic and socio-economic changes among young people in Sri Lanka. The collection of qualitative data was the target of the second layer. The most important and specific quantitative data related to the sexual and reproductive health of young people was collected from a field survey, which involved 1,100 unmarried young people aged 15 to 24.

Over the past two decades, the population of young people, aged 15-29, has changed dramatically in Sri Lanka. Their size reached a record high of 5.1 million in 2001. In 2012, however, the figure fell to 4.7 million. Interestingly, an increase has been observed since 2017. The size of the youth population, aged 15-29, is estimated to be increasing in number. The figure is expected to be 4.8 million by 2022. Significant growth in the youth population can be observed by 2032 with 5.2 million. A large volume would remain with the same numbers until 2042, which would lead to an explosion of youth.

The explosion of youth

The youth explosion is a common occurrence in many developing countries. This is often due to a stage of development when a country is successful in reducing child mortality, but mothers still have a high fertility rate. The result is what the numbers tell us: a large part of the population is made up of children and young adults.

The youth explosion is an interesting factor in terms of economic efficiency. It is a demographic dividend, which, as defined by the United Nations Population Fund, is “the potential for economic growth that can result from changes in the age structure of a population, mainly when the share of the working-age population is larger than that of the inactive. age share of the population ”. It only makes sense if the population is efficient and well informed. An ignorant and ineffective majority of a particular population is calling for worse times and conditions.

Effects of stress

“Almost a quarter of young people use cell phones a lot in their daily activities and a similar proportion of young people suffer from mental stress due to content on the Internet. This could lead to an increase in self-harm and suicide among young people in the near future. On average, young Sri Lankans spend more than two hours a day watching television. Therefore, there is an urgent need to raise awareness among young people about the benefits and negative impacts of new technologies and the Internet, ”said Professor de Silva.

“A significant proportion of surveyed men compared to their female counterparts obtained various types of sexual and reproductive health information largely from the Internet accessible through their own cell phones. However, it is questionable whether they are receiving correct knowledge through the internet, as they might not harness the abilities and skills to find and read only credible sources on the internet. However, about half of the women surveyed indicated that their mother was the most common source of information about SRH, followed by friends, ”added Professor de Silva.

Source of information

Young people in general, especially young unmarried people, should be desensitized to norms that inhibit communication of sexuality and reproduction. The knowledge of adults such as mothers, fathers and relatives should be improved, and young people should be encouraged to seek their advice as a source of information on sexual and reproductive health issues.

“Close family should be encouraged to engage in open discussion with young people if necessary. Improve the knowledge base of young people on social values ​​and norms, which would strengthen family solidarity. This could be an important supporting strategy to produce a productive and balanced youth for the post-Covid-19 era and the well-being of Sri Lanka, ”said Professor de Silva.

The proportion of young people in Sri Lanka who have experienced a love affair is higher among women (91%) than among their male counterparts (87%). In the 15-19 age group, 86 and 87 percent of men and women have experienced at least one love affair, respectively. This is a significant increase in romantic relationships among young Sri Lankans compared to previous research findings.

Lack of knowledge

Both males and females had relatively little overall knowledge about male reproductive organs, compared to female organs. With the exception of knowledge about the ovaries and fallopian tubes, young men tend to report better knowledge not only of their own reproductive organs, but also of female organs than their female counterparts.

Of all the young people in the study, only 44 percent said they had correct knowledge about the level of protection from modern methods of contraception. This could increase the vulnerability to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among young Sri Lankans.

Among young, unmarried men and women in the 15-24 age groups, more than 53 percent of men and 33 percent of women were aware of their friends’ experiences of having sex. In the 20-24 age group, almost 60% of men reported having this acquaintance with friends with such experience.

Among young men in the 15-19 age group, more than 22 percent had had sex, while only 9 percent of young women had the same experience. Almost 30 percent of young men in the 20-24 age group reported this experience. Since these are young single people, such large proportions can have a long-term negative outcome for them individually as well as for society. Compared to men, women (13%) showed a low tendency to have premarital sex

Among young single men who have had sex, almost three-quarters had used contraceptives, while the corresponding figure for women was only two-thirds.

Among respondents in the sexually active 15-19 age group in the study sample, about 60 and 57 percent of single men and women used contraceptives, respectively. This could increase the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among young Sri Lankans.

“This behavior among young people is sure to intensify in the post-Covid era. Therefore, it is not a good idea to open all educational establishments at the same time. This will only pave the way for a greater outburst of repressed feelings. We need to focus on good sexual and reproductive health education. Otherwise, we will never be able to overcome this situation, ”said Professor de Silva.

And that requires attention on a larger scale. Perhaps above all.


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