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Toronto, Canada

Toronto schools help remove the taboo of sex education

December 16, 2009

A sex education class designed to help parents and kids reduce risk and promote healthy living

Some of the greatest cultural integration challenges happen inside the home and between generations. For many immigrant parents, the idea of sex education for children is not just foreign, its taboo.

“Many newcomers have this impression from the media that Canada is a very open place and kids are taught about sex at a young age and so are encouraged to have sex,” says Anda Li, Toronto Public Health sexual educator and administrator. “These parents get a letter about sex education at their child’s school and they don’t know what the teachers are going to tell their kids. And it it so difficult for them to ask because sex is such a taboo in their cultures.”

Breaking down these barriers is the goal of the Toronto Public Health’s Raising Sexually Healthy Children Peer Parent Leadership Training Program. The results are worth it. “Raising sexually healthy kids can reduce sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and even gay bashing,” says Li. “If young people are going to engage in sexual activities anyway, we should talk about it openly, so they know how to protect themselves and how to say no.”

To date, over 106 parents form seven cultural communities have graduated from the program and become Parent Mentors in their community Julie Wang, one of the graduates, now runs a Mandarin speaking workshop where she answers questions for parents about everything from masturbation to contraception and helps answer questions that other immigrants parents have but are too uncomfortable to ask.  Recent funding has made it possible for graduating parents to deliver 52 series of workshops around the city.

Toronto Public Health acknowledges the input of the Ethno-Specific Family Sex Education Peer Parent Leader Coalition representing Bengali, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil and Vietnamese communities. For more information, contact: Toronto Health Connection at the City of Toronto.


Maytree