Like in many schools in Sri Lanka, my health teacher skipped the lesson on sex. Naturally as a teenager, I grew up to think of sexual health as what it was made to look like: Taboo. Eventually, my own health complications as an adult led me to Google’s search bar, blogs and articles. Regardless, I decided to attend “Filling in the gaps” an event by The Arka Initiative on the ‘Sexual Education We Actually Need” at HomeTree Coworking in Colombo — and here’s what I learnt at 26 years old. Most of it, for the very first time …
The Arka Initiative is an effort to provide tangible and practical support to men and women on issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health. Led by a group of young people backed up by professionals, their goal is to be a catalyst for the greater realisation of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Sri Lanka.
Similar to visiting a gynaecologist if you’re not pregnant, sex education itself has been made an awkward subject to tackle in Sri Lanka. The Arka Initiative erased those sentiments with this trilingual workshop that dived straight into the facts and best practises with so much ease. Each of us had the opportunity to discuss the following topics:
- Understanding Common Sexual Disorders by Dr. Rashmira Balasuriya
- Understanding Consent & Assault by the organisation’s Founder, Attn. Manisha Dissanayake
- Condom and the Pill — Are we using them right? by Tamara Jayasinghe
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases — What you need to know by Dr. Sathyani Wevita
In a nutshell, if you’re experiencing a sexual disorder, it is advised to be first treated psychologically. For instance, in the case of ‘vaginismus’, its causes could largely be due to psychological reasons such as fear or trauma, and therefore, it’s first best to resolve that before moving on to a physical diagnosis.
Men too have difficulties, and premature ejaculation is one of them. Once again, habits such as excessive smoking and consumption of alcohol are best slowed down, while techniques such as ‘Squeeze and Stop’ are advised contrary to taking medical antidepressants. The latter should only be obtained as a last resort if all else fails.
Prevention is Better than Cure: Pills, Vaccines and Safety
In Sri Lanka the HPV vaccine protects against the four main types of HPV that can lead to genital warts and so on. This is recommended to be taken before one’s first sexual encounter. If you’ve failed to take this vaccine, ensuring that a condom is used is your next best option, although its effectiveness is not 100% guaranteed in the case of HPV.
Next, get tested: Unlike other health diseases, STD symptoms can take up to twenty years to show. Kissing is also one way of passing an STD, and as some of these diseases are yet to find a cure, no one loses out by getting tested!
You have every right to ask your partner to get tested too
Getting tested is not about testing another’s trust, but rather staying safe because just one wrong person is enough to be infected with an STD for life. Here are two ways that were shared to help ease the tension of “getting tested”.
- Communication is key: Here it is important to let your partner know it’s not their fault in anyway and that it’s theirs and your health that matters.
- Take the test with them.
The Reality of the “Emergency Pill”
While the emergency pill has become a go-to contraceptive pill in Sri Lanka, its effect on the female body can lead to detrimental side effects in the long run. Therefore, it was advised to seek a prescribed long-term pill which would work in harmony with one’s body, and achieve a higher effective rate too.
Only “Yes” Means “Yes”
While “no” means no, so does implied consent — doubt is considered a “no” to remove any grey area that may exist regarding consent. A ‘yes’ can also be withdrawn at any time. At no instance should anyone feel like they have to engage in sex just because they said yes at one point. Changing one’s mind especially with something as intimate as sex is only human.
This applies if you’re married as well, sex is not a duty and should never be viewed as such for the aforementioned reasons.
Dealing with Assault in Sri Lanka
While going to the police can be a hassle, there is a fighting chance for you to file a case if you do. A women and children’s desk at venue can assist you. According to the country’ penal code and domestic violence law you are legally secure to fight for justice.
While the Women in Need offers shelter for mothers and their children around the island, if you’re a part of the LGBTQ community, there is hope for you too among non-governmental organisations. Finally, if you’re financially restrained from going forward with your case there is legal aid available as well.
There is help and a growing number of people and organisations seeking to end this taboo
Overall, the Arka Initiative shifts the paradigm of sexual health in Sri Lanka, reminding us all that it is only natural to be engaged in sexual activity, but it’s best done while being safe. This was yet another educative program supported by HomeTree Coworking as part of their iThrive Philosophy which endorses similar programs that helps develop one’s mind and body. Their events range from business tips to inculcating good habits and learning new skills too, join their Facebook group to learn more