Commitment 3: Sex education
Education matters. Providing both children and their caregivers with the support, guidance and tools they need can help to prevent sexual violence occurring, as well as to recover from past experiences.
What’s the problem?
As explained in our research report Caring For Boys Affected By Sexual Violence, many societies still believe information about sex and sexuality should be withheld from children. In some societies, this can be because doing so is seen to be giving permission to engage in sexual behaviour; but this is not the case. Indeed, evidence shows that this failure to openly share information with boys increases their vulnerability to sexual abuse and harmful sexual behaviour. For this reason, both parents and children are lacking in the information they need to tackle the challenge.
We found that, where boys do not have access to information, they can go online to try and find it. This can lead to a risk of misinformation, as well as putting them in contact with people who may exploit their vulnerability and expose them to sexual harassment, sexual solicitation and pornography. A lack of awareness amongst parents or other carers about the risks of information technology means that they are often unable to adequately supervise children’s information technology use and online relationships, making it even a challenge that requires a range of solutions to tackle.
In general, there is a lack of suitable material targeted to boys; and this is even more the case for boys who have a disability and those from the LGBTI community – putting them at heightened risk.
What are we calling for?
Educating children on sexual violence means that they can identify when it is taking place and take appropriate action. Our Charter is a global call for improved sex and relationships education, and education on how to use the internet safely, to all children, and engage parents in its content. We also recommend that boys should be involved in the design and evaluation of programmes looking to provide education for them, and materials should be tailored to or inclusive of their specific needs – including those needs of groups such as disabled boys or boys from the LGBTI community, each of which requires different information.
Examples of good practice already exist, and these can be built on and tailored to new contexts. For example, Family for Every Child member organisation in Brazil, Projeto Legal, has engaged groups of adolescents in their own protection from sexual violence, including sensitising peers and influencing the development of policy. Our member organisation in Cambodia, First Step, provides capacity building to residential care staff, which can play an important part in children’s recovery from sexual violence. In Chile, our member Paicabi uses a Guide to Problematic Sexual Behaviours that sets out practical steps and guidance for supporting foster carers and families to respond to children who have experienced sexual abuse or harmed others with their sexual behaviour. These are just three examples of many that can be accessed to create develop new ways of working.
Making it happen
Through the United For Boys Charter, we’re calling for organisations to commit to ensuring their services work for every child who needs them.
Through our package of support and guidance, we support signatory organisations to make it happen around the world.
*Source: Our report, Caring for Boys Affected by Sexual Violence.