Adolescent Sexuality Education and the Cost of the Conspiracy of Silence: Lessons from Nigeria

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Adolescents experience a spate of physical and psychosexual changes, which they would have understood if they had adequate information on sexuality and sexual health. In Nigeria, socio-cultural expectations including the classification of sex-related issues as taboo subjects prevent parents, guardians and other adults from discussing sexuality issues or giving factual and adequate information in response to adolescents’ questions. The consequence of the conspiracy of silence is that adolescents are uninformed, misinformed or under-informed about many issues. This study seeks to evaluate the extent of the knowledge of sexuality education among in-school adolescents as well as ascertain the sources of their knowledge. It also seeks to establish the relationship between knowledge of sexuality issues and sexual behaviour. Using a multi-stage sampling technique, the study obtained data from 1350 adolescents in State–owned senior secondary schools in Lagos state, Nigeria. Findings from the study show that majority of the adolescents had, at one time or the other, been confused about relationship with members of the opposite sex, their bodies and even relationship with friends of the same sex. Although adolescents acknowledge that parents had prepared them for changes in their bodies more than their friends, such preparation did not include information on sex, prevention of pregnancy or what to expect in a relationship. Friends/classmates constitute adolescents’ first source of information on these issues and they are the ones from whom adolescents seek counsel when they are confused. The study underscores the need to break the silence surrounding sexuality in Nigeria as in other African societies. The cost of the silence is high. It results on the short term, in increasing number of ill-informed and sexually unhealthy adolescents; and on the long term, in high mortality and morbidity rates, worsening various dimensions of human development and threatening sustainable development.

Keywords: Adolescents, Sexuality Education, Cost, Silence
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Adolescent Sexuality Education and the Cost of the Conspiracy of Silence

Dr. Funmi Bammeke

Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Lagos
Lagos, Nigeria

Funmi Bammeke is a teacher/researcher. Her areas of academic and research interest include Gender Studies, Sociology of the Family and Social Work. She obtained a B.A(Hons)in English from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University)Ile-Ife in 1984; a Masters Degree (Sociology) from the University of Lagos in 1994 and a Ph.D. in 2004.Her role as a university teacher gives her the opportunity to influence young people in her society to believe in themselves and strive to make positive contributions to the society.In her free time, she gives leadership training to youths.

Dr. Chinyere Carol Phyllis Nnorom

Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Lagos
Lagos, Nigeria

Chinyere C. P. Nnorom ia a teacher/researcher at the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos Nigeria. Her area of academic and research interest is Demography.

Ref: I08P0072