2 Dec 2013

Young Fiji woman battles for sex education in region's schools

5:51 pm on 2 December 2013

A young woman from Fiji is lobbying to have the Pacific region's young people taught about sex from an early age in order to curb high rates of sexual abuse and violence against women.

Jasmine Kaur's fight stems from her own experience of sexual abuse as a child.

She spoke to Sally Round at a recent gathering of Pacific Island women leaders in the Cook Islands.

JASMINE KAUR: I think that comprehensive sexuality education needs to be incorporated into the school curriculum in every Pacific Island nation. Children need to learn at a very young age what's really happening to them, what's happening to their bodies. What are the good touches? What are the bad touches? And it, in turn, has a ripple effect and it will curb our violence against women issues.

SALLY ROUND: You're speaking from personal experience.

JK: Yes, I am.

SR: Basically, I was a victim of ongoing child sexual abuse for a number of years. And I really didn't know what was happening to me because of this whole Pacific culture that we have - not being able to talk to your children about sex. And the whole taboo issue is what I really blame for not being able to be empowered enough or educated enough on what was happening to me, really.

JK: When were you enlightened about things?

SR: At a very, very late stage, actually. It's when I went to Form 6 and when I started reading a lot more and getting a lot more involved in voluntary work. I overheard something about rape, and so, inquisitively, I went and checked it online and that's when I realised 'This has been happening to me for a number of years'. It was quite a sad thing to note, but I didn't let it keep me down. And from that day onwards I've been trying to push for comprehensive sexuality education from a very young age.

JK: So how do you think that you can change things?

SR: I personally feel that I have to get myself into every regional meeting space or international meeting space that I can to make this into not just a law in the country, but actually an international convention where child sexuality education becomes a lived reality and the implementation of these laws are also toughened up, so that people feel obligated to implement these policies into schools, and children are better educated on what's really happening to them.

JK: Do you think that's going to take a long time? Do you think you have a lot of cultural tradition to get over?

SR: In the Pacific we are well-known to be really bound by our culture, but then really it's not an excuse. As a young woman I don't see that as an excuse for not asking our leaders to make it an important issue. Because at the end of the day how long can you hold on to your culture and your traditional values? Plus it's a very dynamic thing, it keeps changing, so you can not hold on to your traditional values and excuses to not really address a human rights issue, and moreover, a child rights issue which is extremely important.

JK: And you don't have a democratic government at the moment. Do you find that the government in place is taking these issues seriously?

SR: Not really. I feel that whenever we, as young women, or me as a young lesbian woman, wants to raise our concerns, we do get the cold shoulder. Our voices are not heard. And I know of many young and women, especially of diverse sexuality, who are not really able to voice their concerns because they're scared of the government that we have currently, because of laws that prevent us from really voicing our concerns. Our constitution itself is a document that has too many limitations on the bill of rights. Everyone is scared of saying something because we feel that it can be used against us and we can be criminalised for it.