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What is a myth?
There are several myths and beliefs that also make it difficult for young people to access Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights information and services.
We will now address the myths one by one.
Usually, a young woman is already having menstrual periods when she has sex for the first time. If she is having period’s her body is preparing eggs every month that can be fertilized by a man’s sperm and she can become pregnant. In rare cases, a young woman might have sex just before her body is getting ready for the first menstrual period, then she would then she would already have eggs that can be fertilized and she could also get pregnant. It also does not matter in what position a young woman is during sexual intercourse; if the sperm enter the vagina, she could become pregnant. So it does not matter if she is lying down or standing up.
Both men and women have biological urges to have sexual intercourse; for example, they can become aroused when they kiss or hug another person. Being aroused can mean that a man has an erection (a stiff penis) and a woman may feel wet between her legs because fluids come from the vagina. Even when someone is aroused, they do not have to have sexual intercourse; not having sex will not harm your mental or physical health.
This is the same for men and women. A man’s erection might not go away quickly and he can relieve the pressure by masturbating. Some people might say that it is a waste of his sperm. However, men also have wet dreams when they are asleep; they get an erection and ejaculate-which means they release semen, the fluid with sperm in it. They do not “use up” their sperm, however. There is no need to worry about a lack of sperm in an average healthy (young) man.
Some people think if young people have access to emergency contraception this will encourage unsafe sex. Recent studies were emergency contraceptives is available show that having easy access to it has not increased unsafe sex or promiscuity.
Some people also oppose emergency contraceptives because they think it is a form of abortion. Emergency contraceptives are a way to prevent a pregnancy from happening. A woman can do this by having an intra-uterine device placed within five days of having unprotected sex or taking a special type or dosage of contraceptive pill within 72 hours of having unprotected sexual intercourse. When she takes the pill, it prevents a pregnancy from establishing itself in the uterus; in abortion, a pregnancy is removed from the uterus so these are two different things.
When facing an unplanned pregnancy, women weigh all their options, consider their many obligations, and make the best decision in their particular situation. Women may have responsibilities related to work, to school, and to the children they already have that affect their decision. By choosing not to have a child for which they cannot care or that would make it very difficult to care for the children they already have, they are actually making a responsible choice.
This myth is used by some individuals, groups and organisations to stop young women from having access to safe abortion services. Many of these anti-abortion activists do not want people to have sex outside marriage and they label people who do that as being “promiscuous “. But men and women have a right to choose their sexual partners, either in marriage or outside marriage. The only requirement is that both people must be mature enough to have sex and that they do it completely voluntarily, that is, they don’t feel pressured or forced to have sex. Even where young people have a lot of freedom to choose their sexual partners, the large majority will only have one partner at a time. For example, in the Netherlands where safe abortion is easily available to young women-research on young people aged 11-24 showed that fewer than 1 in 10 boys and girls had sex with someone who was their boyfriend/girlfriend . Having access to safe abortion services does make young women want to go out and have sex with many men.
“Human rights are the expressions of those traditions of tolerance in all religions and cultures that are the basis of peace and progress. Human rights are foreign to no culture and native to all nations.” Young men and young women have sex, and young women become pregnant and choose to continue or end a pregnancy in all countries of the world. Some cultures had, or still have, an initiation programme and/or ceremony during young men women are taught about sex and sexuality. Some of these young people are virgins when they attend the ceremonies, others have already had sex. Women have also shared information on different ways on which to terminate a pregnancy for thousands of years in all regions of the world. For example, abortion induced by herbs was used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Cultural initiations, ceremonies and sharing information are expressions and acceptance of young people’s rights to information about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction. Today, information on these aspects of sexual and reproductive health is also passed on through newspapers, books, magazines, brochures, radio, television and the internet. What is most important is the quality of the information that is passed on. Organisations in “the west”, but also all other regions of the world, support programmes to ensure that young people get correct and factual information so they can protect themselves against diseases and unwanted pregnancy.