Sex and sexuality, especially in relation to young people remain contentious issues. Young people receive conflicting messages about sex and sexuality. Sexuality education and health information programmes, where they exist, tend to paint sex and sexuality in a negative light, relating it to “guilt, fear and disease.” In the eyes of peers, sex is described as “positive, desirable and disproportionately significant,” while the media gives conflicting and distorted messages.
This is happening in a context of a general social taboo of sex and sexuality, which hinders open discussions and implementing comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programmes. These, combined with lack of access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services in most countries in the Asia-Pacific, and a general context of increased privatisation of health, lack of democratic freedom in other countries, and the lack of prioritisation and political commitment to SRHR, serve as strong barriers for young people to fully exercise their SRHR.