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Why Cultural Sensitivity in Sexual Education Matters

I was privileged to be educated about safe-sex in high school and to have access to affordable forms of contraceptives. However, this isn’t the case for under-resourced Asian and Pacific Islander communities that lack proper sexual health education. Many API women lack the resources to obtain contraceptives and education regarding safe-sex due to cultural barriers that stigmatize sexual health. Contraceptives are a taboo discussion- even after marriage- in many Asian societies. Understanding these cultural barriers can help us create a more culturally sensitive environment for educating API women.

Whenever the topic of sex was somehow brought up either through family drama or what we see on TV, my mom would dismiss the conversation by saying I should save myself for marriage. This is a commonly shared value particularly amongst minority households. The idea of womanhood and purity is a societal norm embedded in Asian culture and this makes it difficult for women to find a safe space for sexual education. The overwhelming pressure of guilt and shame from families can account for the prevalent sexual health disparities amongst Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. Young women in particular are less inclined to seek birth control methods because they fear parental disapproval. A lot of them even feel the need to lie to their physicians regarding their sexual history since their parents have access to their medical history until they turn 18. 

Additionally, the misconception of Asian Americans being the ‘Model Minority’ exacerbates the inability to properly educate and assist young women for safe sex. Health professionals may overlook the unmet needs for young API women since they are culturally stereotyped to be “well-educated and behaved” This undermines the struggle of many immigrant and refugee API communities that live below the poverty line with no access to health care programs and services. This misconception also makes it difficult for sexual education and health-related resources to reach Asian communities that have limited knowledge in english. Books or pamphlets that are health-related are usually unavailable or poorly translated. 

Sexual education programs frequently fail to recognize the cultural barriers that API communities face to obtain the tools, resources, and knowledge that’s not widely available for them. Improper sex education leads young women to make decisions about sex and birth control without any factual information that can result to unplanned pregnancy. In order to prevent this, we need more youth-serving professionals that are mindful of the social and cultural needs of young API women to assess their well-being. 

Kiana is a sophomore Global Studies major and Religion minor at Temple University. Kiana is a health staff writer for Her Campus. Politics, art, and culture are a few things she is passionate about.
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