A leading public health doctor has suggested that sex education lessons should be imparted to schoolchildren as young as five, in an effort to fight the rising levels of teenage pregnancy and sexual diseases.
Dr Charles Saunders, chairman of the British Medical Association's Scottish consultants' committee, cautioned that the safe-sex messages were provided so late by schools, that many teenagers were already exposing themselves to avoidable risk.
Saunders also called for secondary schools to hand out condoms and other forms of contraception to children from the age of 13.
Scotland's sexual health record is one of the worst in the western world, with cases of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases on a constant rise.
"It needs to start at quite an early age, because if you leave it until they are 12 it is too late because some are already experimenting. It probably needs to be started off when children start school. You need to start laying the groundwork to help them and empower them to make decisions and turn things down," the Scotsman quoted Saunders, as saying.
"At five it needs to be a language that they understand and taught in the same way as any other subject. It should start off with relatively simple concepts in the same way as English and science start off with the basics. It could start off with how babies are made and progress from there.
"You need to start somewhere and it makes an awful lot of sense to start long before it's needed, because if you leave it too long you are wasting your time," he added.
He further said that sex education should not be limited to anatomical drawings, but should also include the pros and cons of having sex.
"Basically sex education needs to be a whole lot better. It's not just anatomical drawings but what the risks are from infections and what the pros and cons are of having sex or waiting," he said.
"It's not a simple task to get young people empowered enough to use condoms, but it's the key. You want to ensure people are not having sex when they don't want to have it, and that when they do want to have it they are not putting themselves at risk," he added.
Saunders said that all schools should also provide contraception to pupils.
"Particularly in rural areas, schools may well be the only way that pupils can access contraception. It may well be that as time goes on it would make sense to have emergency contraception in schools," he said.
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