Two dozen elementary students wiggle in their seats. They are captivated by their teacher who is, to their surprise, holding a handful of condoms.
“Who here knows what a condom is?” Their teacher asks. A wave of giggles sweeps the classroom before half of the students raise their hands. The others simply stare idly at the mysterious, square-shaped packages.
Shot and broadcasted from Kaohsiung on national television in 2017, this playful lesson on sexual education and gender equality sparked controversy among Taiwanese residents.
Although it was widely denounced by many conservative and anti-gay critics, the lecture was also applauded by thousands of supportive citizens.
Regardless of the differing impression observers had towards the lesson, however, it was agreed on all sides that the average Taiwanese student did not receive such in-depth sexual education.
Currently, government-mandated sex education simply recommends students to remain sexually abstinent. In a study performed by Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), the chairwoman of Taiwan’s Women’s Link, the sex education programs in Taiwanese schools have an inherent bias.
Mixed with traditional ideologies as well as a moralizing tone, Taiwan’s sex education program teaches students to suppress their sexual urges or practice sex solely within wedlock.
This inadequate schooling method ultimately leaves students to fall within two categories — one that includes concealing sexual desires and another that involves practicing unsafe sex.
Although the two options may seem different, they ultimately lead to similar faults in sexual practices and desire within teens.
In a study by The Journal of Sex Research, it was found that teenagers that attempt to repress sexual thoughts only beget a stronger preoccupation of sexual fantasies as well as addictions to pornographic material or masturbation.
As collected by a poll released by the Taiwan Association for Sexuality Education, 40 percent of sexually active teenagers are practicing unsafe sex.
What’s more, according to Professor Chi-Chia J. Cheng from Fu-Jen Catholic University, 94 percent of HIV infections are conceived through unsafe sex.
However, complications from having a restrictive sex education do not end there.
In 2019, an international school located in Taipei struggled with a sexual harassment scandal; a ring of male students began inappropriately photographing and distributing private images of female students without their consent.
The male students, although wrong in their actions, were also victims in their own right.
Their schooling system, which was supposed to teach and guide them, had failed to properly provide them with sex education. Had they were properly educated on consent and sexual assault, perhaps they would not have made the same mistakes.
Most if not all of the schooling material and content in Taiwan is dictated by the government and older generations.
Although all individuals may be entitled to their own opinions on sex, the beliefs of one demographic should never be exerted upon another.
It’s time for Taiwan to present thorough sex education to younger generations, and allow them to determine for themselves whether or not they want to be sexually active.