With one in five people in Asia in the age group of 15-24 years, the 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSH) focuses on the youth to address crucial issues related to sexuality and health in their lives.
The conference to be held at Hyderabad Oct 29-31 will have government representatives, NGOs, researchers, policy makers and parliamentarians from 42 countries to share research findings, discuss and debate on issues like gender and sexual diversity, adolescent health and sex education and the impact of religious fundamentalism on reproductive health rights.
Sunil Mehra, member of the organising committee, said that one-third of the population in the developing countries comprises youth. And they carry a very heavy load of HIV-AIDS, sexual and reproductive health issues on their shoulders.
"There is a major policy gap as far as young people are concerned. Most of the challenges that the youth faces, for example safe abortion or HIV, are due to lack of information.
"Thus it becomes absolutely necessary to discuss such sensitive issues and talk to the youth themselves in order to come up with the best possible solution to the challenges that they face," Mehra said.
Radhika Chandiramani, executive director of The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality, said that one of the main reasons why the youth always gets a raw deal is because of lack of information.
"From childhood sexuality is harped upon us as a negative thing. Messages such as 'Don't sit with your legs apart' to a girl, 'Don't act like a sissy' to a boy are some examples.
"Currently there is a controversy over the introduction of sex education at schools. Some people feel that this will lead to their children in engaging in sexual relationships.
"But from my experience, I can say that there is an urgent need to give the youth the right information and prevent them from taking the wrong steps," said Radhika whose organisation runs a telephone help line on sexuality.
During the conference, there will be satellite sessions with young people of different countries that will provide an opportunity to hear their opinions, their side of the story and suggestions.
Some of the issues that will be discussed are 'Enabling and Realising Young People's Potential in Improving Reproductive and Sexual Health', 'Equalising Sexual Relationships: Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Diversity' and 'Making Pregnancy Safe and Wanted'.
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