“Young people now have sex [in China] really early… it makes you [feel] shocked,” says a Chinese student from Trinity College Foundation Studies, who wished to remain anonymous.
Many international students are aware of the change in common age for when young people start having sex but as that number gets younger, the need for healthy and proper sexual education becomes increasingly important.
Unfortunately, most international students come from countries where discussion around sex is not as open as it is in Australia. You would never say things with such personal intimacy in front of parents and elders in different parts of Asia, for example, and as such most young people from these areas will learn about sex through their friends or in the media; which in itself can be dangerous and can lead to a culture of misinformation around the topic.
Conversely, the openness of sexual discussion and education — whether at school or at home — is more prevalent in Australia.
The Victorian State Government, for example, provides sexual education information for parents advising them on how to best deal with sensitive issues. Awkward conversations may entail for many families but nevertheless, these issues are discussed. Sex education also has a big presence in most Australian schools and while it isn’t always perfect, it does offer stark contrast to Asian countries that may not have proper education around sex included in their curriculum.
Perhaps just as important in education around sex is teaching young people about LGBT+ communities.
One Cambodian student we spoke to claimed a “majority of Cambodians are still unaware and unfamiliar with LGBT relationships”. Where sex is a taboo in some countries, identifying oneself as being part of the LGBT+ community is still controversial. Many are fearful of alienation and experiencing hate crimes, even as the Asian LGBT+ community becomes increasingly vocal about their rights.
However, Taiwan’s recent landmark legalisation of same-sex marriage, which made it the first Asian country to do so, will hopefully set a precedent and inspire other countries to follow suit (even if changing attitudes in different countries may take a long time).
So while international students may arrive in Australia and feel startled by the country’s openness around sexual issues and LGBT+ communities, and its approaches towards sexual education, it is hoped that what they glean from their experiences abroad can be returned to their societies as well.
“I believe it is good, as it could reduce high birth rates, sexual violence, STDs, and eliminate ignorance when it is discussed appropriately,” the Cambodian student said.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.