What is it?
Every year, on the eleventh of July, World Population Day is celebrated. A UN initiative, this day aims to spread awareness about the rocketing population we face today. It is a day celebrated to empower young girls and boys and emphasize the importance of planned reproduction. Why is this a priority? The population is one of the leading concerns in countries like India and China- with the count being more than a billion in each. There are many issues that result in overpopulation today- be it child marriage, family beliefs, the improper use or absence of contraception, or sex education.
Statistics show that the average age at which most people lose their virginity is 15-18 years old. However, lives have turned upside down by unplanned conception. So, it is vital for young people to know how to avoid this, primarily with the use of birth control methods such as pills, condoms, and intrauterine devices and implants. The first two are considered as the most youth-friendly techniques.
· Impacts/side effects- prevents ovulation, sore breasts, nausea, headaches
· Advantages- makes period bleeding regular, light & less painful; reduces the risk of ovaries, womb & colon cancer
· Disadvantages- can increase blood pressure, does NOT protect against STD’s, can increase the risk of breast cancer
· Side effects- skin irritation, allergic reaction to spermicides or other chemicals in the condom
· Advantages- when used correctly & consistently, it’s a reliable method to prevent pregnancy and STD’s
· Disadvantages- moderately high failure rate when used improperly or inconsistently
Sexually transmitted diseases are diseases that are transmissible through sexual activity. Some of the most common Sexually transmitted diseases are Syphilis, AIDS or HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes, and human papillomavirus. All though most STDs don’t show symptoms, you may experience pain or a burning sensation while urinating; unusual bleeding in the vagina; lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, discharge from the penis; sores or bumps on the genitals, oral or rectal area; rashes on the hands, trunk, or feet and constant fatigue.
How to ensure that you have a safe sex life?
· Condoms are a must. You can prevent the majority of the STDs by using a condom during sex. A bonus is birthing control pills
· Do not share towels or undergarments
· It is always ideal to clean up or take a shower after sex to wash away the possible disease-causing bacteria or germs.
· Getting tested for STD an option too. If you’re a virgin, getting tested before you have sex will keep you as well as your partner safe
Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system. So, some reproductive health services young people may require is information on and access to modern contraception, emergency contraception, menstruation, STI’s, testing and treatment, gynecology, pregnancy testing and services, safe abortion, counseling, gender-based violence, among others.
However, there are barriers to accessibility and availability as well as the quality of services. For example, some countries may limit youth access to contraceptives, and some reproductive health centers only address married women.
When it comes to females, a good example of a reproductive disorder that lacks funding, research, and diagnostic methods is Endometriosis. It is the largest women’s health crisis of our time, with it occurring in more than 1 out of 10 females. It results in very exhausting and painful periods. As for males, several may face issues with puberty, with contraception, and with understanding how their sexual health affects relationships.
Lastly, there are steps being taken to encourage accessibility. Civil society organizations and governments are working to improve and expand sexual health services for young clients. This includes training service providers, condom distribution, increasing awareness of services among young people, reaching young people with information on their reproductive health and rights through innovative methods; such as mobile apps.
Education is a basic human right given to every child throughout the world, and though it is one of the most important parts of a child’s life, 262 million kids and adolescents didn’t attend school according to the UN’s data from 2018. Quality education is also one of the UN’s sustainable development goals… by 2030 their goal was to have free, quality education of primary and secondary school for girls and boys throughout the world.
In 2020, as countries were going under lockdown due to the pandemic, a majority of countries announced closures of schools, thus severely impacted the UN’s progress of achieving quality education throughout the world. The UN recorded 1.6 billion students out of school due to the pandemic and 369 million students who rely on school meals had to look in other places for food.
In addition, UNESCO launched a set of initiatives to assist countries, ensuring that education isn’t halted during this pandemic. Some of the initiatives include assisting underdeveloped countries with low-cost online education plans, introducing easier ideas, and more. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) helps children continue learning in Vietnam by providing offline and online learning materials. In Rwanda, South Africa, UNICEF helped develop radio scripts that are aired from 8:30 am to 2 pm, and the students of the country tune in. So, there is an effort being made, but how long can students be neglected from physical environments of collaboration if the world does not find a more long-term solution?
While general education is important it is also vital to educate people about the stereotypes of our society. Gender stereotypes are one such stereotype that impacts our world in an extremely negative way. Gender equality is a fundamental human right, to be treated as equal. These stereotypes can be seen in everyday life from treating one gender lesser than another; major examples include unequal pay, gender-based violence, and much more.
It is vital to understand that both men and women are labeled under this category of stereotypes. For instance, in India at least, women face physical constraints while men are known to face emotional ones. On this day, we must acknowledge these stereotypes that have been rooted in this world for years as our population grows. The UN has also included gender equality as one of its sustainable development goals.
The pandemic has increased the consistent violence against women since they’re stuck with abusive family members. During this time, several women face financial challenges as they are not paid their whole wages during the pandemic.
Rights of a Girl Child
A girl child is defined as a female below the age of 18, yet that doesn't matter while she is being sent off to live with a total stranger. Now one might think, ‘no way! child marriage is illegal.’ Well, it is and laws are made to work against that problem but it is not implemented. And that isn't the only issue. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines rape as "sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent, by coercion, misrepresentation or fraud or at a time when she has been intoxicated or duped, or is of unsound mental health and in any case if she is under 18 years of age."
However, intercourse with a child-wife with/without her consent has been excluded. So, the husband not only escapes a 7-year sentence, but he also gets the “privilege” of not being arrested until the underage girl, less than 15 years old, approaches the court herself and goes through the more rigorous procedure prescribed for the trial of complaint cases. The law is filled with loopholes working against so many young females. We need tighter laws. We need to change. We need to demand it.
Marriage and its Complexities
Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school and more than 50% of teen mothers never graduate from high school. This is because teen moms usually take the burden to raise their child while the father, involved or not, carries on with his life. Childbirth is a beautiful phenomenon only if the parents are ready and aware of their responsibilities.
On the other hand, childbirth isn’t the only thing that can offer problems, marriage is also a huge responsibility. 41% of first marriages end in divorce, and the cause of a divorce varies from couple to couple, but some common reasons include lack of commitment, eventual incompatibility, marrying too young, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, lack of preparation for marriage. These reasons are more common for a couple who rushed into their marriage without understanding the responsibilities that come along with it. Lack of equality in the relationship, however, comes from the fact that in India especially, when there are a child and two working parents in the house, the wife often leaves her job in order to run the household and care for the child. Thus, there are numerous responsibilities that accompany marriage and it is important to sit tight until one is ready, and accepts what comes with it.
All You Need to Know
· It is of utmost importance for birth control methods to be taught to adolescents, and the impact of each
· To prevent STD’s, precautions should be taken before & after sex, and one should be aware of the symptoms
· Reproductive healthcare services must be both available and accessible to boys and girls. Youngsters are gradually being introduced to paying attention to reproductive health too, because if they feel uncomfortable with it at a young age then they’ll have trouble facing it in the future
· During this tricky time, education has taken a big hit globally. UN organizations like UNICEF and UNESCO help with creating temporary solutions, however, the situation is still compromised
· Gender stereotypes are still active today mainly because of inequality. If our elders don’t raise us with the knowledge to not only dismantle these stereotypes but also to understand how we all, male or female, deserve respect, then we will grow up carrying that same legacy of nonsensical inequality. This lesson must be explicitly taught during the foundation of our life- our childhood
· So many women in India marry underage, and although there are laws for rape, forceful penetration of a child-wife by her husband has been excluded. This needs to change, and we need to speak up
There are many factors for why marriages so often break; for why childbirth can make or break a relationship. No one teaches us these things, so how can we prepare?
RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN BY WRITERS AT JUSTATEEN