Fiji: Sex Education

MONDAY, APRIL 4, 2016 AT 2:44PM

 ‘Police are calling on members of the public to refrain from engaging in the traditional process of asking for forgiveness when it comes to matters such as sexual assault and rape...’ Received from text messaging service ROTUMA 8176. Not only is it a suitable text message to receive on the day I write this blog, but also lends to the fact that everything begins from the home and the classroom, so lets talk sex ed.

Heterosexual? Homosexual? Bisexual? Asexual? This was the topic today at Beqa Yanuca Secondary School. Myself and Research Officer Jane were visiting the Schools to provide cartons from the South Pacific Waste Recyclers to address the Schools paper waste problem, when we were invited to attend a Year 12 Sex Ed class given by Peace Corps member Meaghan.

This Sex Ed class is part of the Family, Life and Education (FLE) class that runs once or twice a week, which focus on topics outside of the national School curriculum but are yet necessary to becoming a functioning and contributing member to society. While sex education  is alighted on in terms of STIs given the high number of cases of HIV in Fiji, it is a topic that remains culturally sensitive and rarely spoken about in detail. As ROTUMA’s text message suggests, Fiji is a nation that maintains its traditional values, and lack of the use of birth control and condoms have led to STIs, unwanted pregnancies and other issues. My co-worker, Jane, from Indonesia, offered her third world experience by stating that, while everyone is aware of the functions of birth control and condoms, the use of them implies infidelity and the possibility that you are STI prone, or that you are not honouring the ‘no sex before marriage’ pact you are supposed to have with your God.  Therefore, we are left with a slight Catch 22.

Despite the seriousness of the topic, the Sex Ed class was enjoyable as Meaghan talked about sexual orientation, she used the naughty students as examples,

‘If Henry was physically and romantically attracted to Salote, then he’d be – ‘Heterosexual!’

And Meaghan’s work doesn’t end there. From handing out condoms to giving talks in the villages, the message that it’s ok to be what you are and want what you want, as long as it’s safe, consenting and respectful is strong. Bullying for sexual orientation is hindering to both a person’s development and generally to the human condition, and there is zero acceptance of it in her classroom.

The students were also invited to ask us any questions (mainly related to the work the NGO does). In typical Fijian fashion, they smiled shyly and declined.

If I had to relate the class today to the Sex Ed I received attending a Catholic school, I would say that the class today was far better and more informative. My Teachers had no clue, sotiau (sorry) Trinity. Meaghan did a great job of informing, relaxing, and enpowering everyone in the classroom, which is fantastic given that women are still considered second-class in Fiji. After covering topics on sex, she intends to give further FLE classes on relationships.

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