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The case for comprehensive sex education in Bermuda

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Kevina Lorae A. Santucci is a life coach and sex educator who specialises in intimacy, relationships and self-care

With the Ministry of Education's Plan 2022 going into effect this coming term, we must discuss an elephant in the room — Bermuda's lacklustre approach to sex education. Our students deserve and have the right to inclusive, age-appropriate and comprehensive sex education, and this must be a priority in the new education reforms.

I recently conducted a small but informative poll with Bermudian participants ranging in age from 18 to 50 about the quality of sex education on island. The results are shown below and would be shocking to other developed nations.

In order to prepare our young people for healthy relationships with themselves and others in adulthood, comprehensive sex education must go beyond basic anatomy. It should include topics such as consent, gender identity, relationships, sexual violence awareness, skills for sexual health and wellbeing, body image, as well as sexuality in LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse individuals. When people are well-educated, they can make more informed decisions and have greater control over the outcome of their lives.

Comprehensive sexuality education is a powerful tool to combat violence, abuse and discrimination, and to promote respect for diversity.

If we want to protect our children, we have to arm them with knowledge and understanding so they have the tools to speak up when something is not right and the confidence to voice when it is.

Refraining from providing structured and inclusive comprehensive sex education is contributing to multigenerational ignorance on the topic, and is making us vulnerable to sexual-based violence and unhealthy relationships.

Age-appropriate sex education should begin as early as P1 — learning about boundaries, feeling safe, tolerance and respect. Older primary students should learn about healthy relationships, consent, sexual harassment and online safety. This is crucial because social media is accessible to ever-younger children and is increasingly impossible for parents to fully monitor.

With the basic foundation being laid in primary school, middle school children should learn about red flags in relationships, reproductive anatomy, STD transmission and prevention, sexual exploitation — such as revenge porn — and delve deeper into online safety and consent.

Senior school students should be taught about teen dating violence, contraceptives and protection, orientation, identity and how to access local health resources.

I am aware that sex education does already exist in Bermuda, on a basic level, but it should be structured, evidence-based, introduced early, build on previous knowledge and be inclusive of marginalised groups. Sex education should not be introduced too late to teens already addicted to pornography and involved in unhealthy or violent relationships.

According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, “contrary to what opponents claim, research carried out at the international level has demonstrated the benefits of comprehensive sexuality education, including delayed sexual initiation, reduced risk-taking, increased use of contraception, and improved attitudes related to sexual and reproductive health”.

In so many ways, Bermudians are conscientiously pushing for increased health and wellbeing individually and collectively. It has become clear to me that one of the steps on our journey to a healthy community is comprehensive sex education for children, teens and adults to empower us to make the best and most informed decisions. What we need are more specialised educators trained in comprehensive and holistic approaches to sexuality education.

As an adult sex educator, this has become a passion of mine; and as a relationship and intimacy coach, I get to see first-hand how a lack of education can create uninformed adults vulnerable to violence and abuse. I am enrolled at present in an accredited two-year programme to gain a higher certification in holistic sex education. This certification would allow me to extend my educational services to further support marginalised groups such as at-risk youth, LGBTQIA+ and polyamorous partnerships, trauma survivors, neurodivergent and pregnant persons, etc. The more access to education, the healthier the community.

If you wish to support my latest endeavour to create a safer, more sex-positive, supportive and inclusive Bermuda, please consider donating to my GoFundMe page.

Kevina Lorae A. Santucci is a life coach and sex educator who specialises in intimacy, relationships and self-care

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Published June 22, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 22, 2022 at 5:27 pm)

The case for comprehensive sex education in Bermuda

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