Positive sexuality is fundamental to our sense of self, self-esteem and ability to lead a fulfilling life. Only a small part of healthy sexuality is about what happens physically. Equally important is our ability to maintain healthy relationships and to manage our feelings in a safe and positive manner.
Healthy sexuality begins at birth and covers the entire life-span. While acknowledging parents as first educators, the elements important for a whole of setting approach to positive sexuality include relevant, comprehensive, age-appropriate education, provision of a safe and nurturing environment, partnerships with and access to health services and pathways, a focus on the development of social skills and should consider the attitudes, culture, values and diversity of individuals, families and your wider community.
“Young people need the knowledge and skills to navigate a context where they are exposed to a broader range of sexuality-related content at an earlier age than previously. Without appropriate knowledge and skills, young people are at risk of developing unhealthy attitudes towards sexuality, increasing risks to mental and physical wellbeing of themselves and others. Most schools are teaching the mechanics of sex and safe sex, but there’s a lack of focus on relationships, consent, gender identity, digital technologies, sexual violence and pornography. Good sexuality education can have a significant impact on student wellbeing, achievement and success - at all year levels of the curriculum there’s a strong focus on respectful relationships”.
ERO Group Manager Evaluation Services Dr Deirdre Shaw.
Reference: www.ero.govt.nz - How well are NZ schools promoting wellbeing for their students through sexuality education
In Aotearoa New Zealand data suggest that young people are at substantially higher risk of contracting STIs than in other western countries including the UK and Australia. While the issues around engaging young people in good sexual health practices are not new; the contextual landscape (e.g. the acceptance of casual sexual engagement, increasing visibility of same-sex sexual relationships, access to and challenges with the cyber world and changing understandings of gender) is markedly different than in previous generations.
Initial results from a 2015 survey of over 10,000 New Zealanders aged 15 years and over, show that half of all New Zealanders, have had sex by the time they are 17 years old, however today’s younger people are much more likely to use condoms with their first sexual encounters – 80% up from less than 40% in the 1970s[i]. Condom use is vitally important for both preventing unwanted pregnancies as well as preventing sexually transmitted infections – particularly in light of recent increases in the number of people with syphilis.
A 2007/2012 Youth Health Survey comparison shows that by the age of 15, 1 in 4 young people in New Zealand have had sex at least once. However the good news is a significant drop in the number of young people overall who reported ever having sex, down from 1 in 3 (2007) to 1 in 4 (2012)[ii]
We have various toolkits, programmes and useful links that you can access to help with your investigation into Sexual Health - click here to go to this section.
[i] Ministry of Health. Media release – Sexual health reinforces importance of condom use. 1 November 2018. https://www.health.govt.nz/news-media/media-releases/sexual-health-survey-reinforces-importance-condom-use
[ii] Youth '12 - Sexual and reproductive health findings, Dr Terryann Clark & the Adolescent Health Research Group. https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/ahrg/docs/Youth%E2%80%9912.%20Sexual%20and%20reproductive%20health%20findings.pdf