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Sexual rights are inherent rights for both women and men requiring social recognition


The “Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Working Group” at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut organised the day before yesterday a workshop for the media entitled “Engaging media in raising awareness about reproductive and sexual health for young people in Lebanon”.  According to Al Akhbar newspaper that covered the workshop, participants agreed that women face much more societal constraints which restrict their sexual practices. The newspaper noted that sexuality and everything directly or indirectly related to it remain one of the major taboos related to "moral norms”.  As a result, the public may find it difficult to accept the result of studies that indicated that 8% of the youth acknowledge having sex whilst 50% say that they do not have a problem with sex before marriage.
Dr. Faysal Kak from AUB noted that these figures are indicative of the changes taking place in society and which need to be addressed rather than denied.  Kak added that research findings should be translated into policies which the media could contribute in implementing and disseminating.  However, Kak further adds that generally the way in which the media approaches sexual health lacks appropriate understanding of a proper conceptual framework as well as knowledge of global transformations and the understanding of the linkage between gender and sexual health.
Kak added that the increase in the average age of marriage (from 24 years for men and 20 years for women in 1970, to 33 years and 29 years in 2012, respectively) has led to an increasing gap between puberty age 15 years and marriage age 30 years which has had dangerous repercussions namely sexual coercion, STDs, abortion, unwanted pregnancies and other problems.  He highlighted that awareness raising on sexual and reproductive health needs to target all of society and not just women.  According to Kak, women need to become more reconciled with their bodies both in terms of physical and mental health as this will lower the levels of problems and diseases caused by lack of awareness.
Participants in this event spoke of a number of media-related problems namely the treatment by the media of sexuality which tends to be vulgar.  This leads to a fierce reaction within society and especially from religious officials who tend to defend their interests as men in restraining women's sexuality.  Participants concluded that awareness interventions should go beyond the mainstream media channels.  They added that the communication of true information is likely to change behavior and would ground the idea that sexual rights should be enjoyed by both women and men.
Source: Al-Akhbar, Al-Safir 19 June 2014

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