“Millions of women in the world still have no access to contraception, although they would like to,” says Doortje Braeken of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), one of the organisations behind the research.
What’s more, many young people surveyed said that on a first date, showering, waxing and putting on perfume come higher on their list of priorities than worrying about birth control.
The study questioned 6,000 people aged between 15 and 24 in 29 different countries. The results were presented on Monday – World Contraception Day. The day’s motto: “Live your Life. Know your rights. Learn about contraception
Only around one in five young people surveyed in India felt they were well informed about birth control options. Even in regions of the world that aren’t particularly known for prudishness, young people aren’t always getting sex education. In Europe, only half the young people surveyed said they’d had any sex ed at all.
In North and South America, Asia and the Pacific, the figure was 75 percent – but then they often complained the information they were getting was no use to them. Doortje Braeken agrees with the criticism.
“Many young people get the impression that sex education is just biology. But that’s absolutely not what they want to know. They want to know about relationships, how to talk to each other. About relationships between men and women, about homosexuality. It’s not just about the risks and where your uterus is. It’s more than that,” the IPPF spokeswoman says.
And strikingly, many young people said they didn’t trust their teachers when it came to information on sexuality, she adds.
Doortje Braeken points out that the number of unplanned pregnancies is particularly low in the Netherlands, home of Love Matters. Here public health information promotes the so-called ‘double Dutch approach’: the contraceptive pill used in combination with condoms.
But in many countries, condoms are hard to come by, and only married couples have access to contraception, says Henk Rolink of Dutch sexual health and rights organisation Rutgers WPF.
“Sexuality is often a politically loaded subject which governments don’t want to burn their fingers on,” he says. “Family Planning gets a low priority. In many other countries sex education mainly concentrates on abstinence. This is often the case in Western countries too, but of course it doesn’t square with reality. Young people do have sex.”
Despite the free availability of condoms in many Western countries, young people don’t use them regularly. In fact, they don’t behave so differently from people in less well-off regions of the world.
Have young people – particularly in developed countries – become blasé? “Of course we’re suffering a bit from AIDS and STD fatigue,” says Doortje Braeken. “It’s something you constantly need to keep drawing attention to. Using a condom should be just as normal as wearing a seatbelt or brushing your teeth.”
*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.
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