Young people have a right to make ‘informed’ decisions about their sexual health

The rights of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services have been distinctly mentioned in agreements adopted during the International Conference on Population and Development held in 1994 in Cairo. It emphasizes on safeguarding the rights of adolescents to privacy, confidentiality and informed consent. The ICPD Para 73 (e) states that with due respect for the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the adolescent, and their right to reproductive health education, information and care, and respecting their cultural values and religious beliefs, ensure that adolescents, both in and out of school, receive the necessary information, including information on prevention, education, counselling and health services to enable them to make responsible and informed choices and decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health needs.

As boys and girls cross the thresholds of childhood and enter into adolescence, they develop a self-identity. While they strive for their own independent view on issues pertaining to their life, they seek information from different sources to actually form those views and take related decisions. Parents and elders have a major role in building their perspective by providing information that is scientifically correct and appropriate in the socio-cultural context. Denial to such information has hardly ever served as a deterrent but all the more has fuelled the curiosity, at times, leading them to non-reliable sources of information. Especially with respect to reproductive and sexual health, the value-loaded messages available for these young people in the family and community lack the sincerity to address the issue in a scientific and practical manner. The exposure to messages and experiences of this phase has a long-lasting effect on one’s life.

Therefore, it is young people’s right to get accurate and current information and education, all encompassing, to acquire negotiation and decision making skills for responsible sexual behaviours and refusal to sexual coercion. Realization of these rights is a demand on all those working with and for young people. To facilitate their access to information and programs that can help them form attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity and intimacy and enhance the quality of relationships is our immediate responsibility.

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Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights
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