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International News

Rise in Japan Teen Sex Ignites Education Debate

June 20, 2005

In an era of increasing rates of teen sex and STDs, Japan's Health Ministry is treading a fine line between proponents of comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only education. Almost half of all Japanese girls age 17 have had sex, up from 17 percent in 1990, according to ministry data. For boys, 40 percent have had sex, nearly double 1990 rate.

Though erotic comics and pornography are prevalent in Japan, concrete sex education is not. In most primary schools, sex education is part of the basic health curricula, while middle and high school students receive sketchy contraception information. Annual abortions among women under age 20 have increased to 40,000, compared to 19,000 in 1980. And chlamydia diagnoses have increased from 3,639 in 1999 to 6,163 in 2003, Health Ministry figures show.

"Many schools teach the names of sexually transmitted diseases, but kids think the only people who get these are middle-aged men," said Masako Kihara, an associate professor at Kyoto University. "Or they think it only happens in cities."

Many Japanese teens have a high partner turnover but consider themselves safe because the relations are not concurrent. "We need to teach that there's a real risk to them," said Kihara. "If you make it specific enough, they'll finally understand. Things like saying that you are basically having sex with everyone your partner's had sex with for the last few years."

Girls should learn that they "can become mothers and their bodies are sacred, their bodies aren't theirs alone," said Eriko Yamatani, a ruling party lawmaker who says explicit sex education is partly behind the rise in teen sex. "So, as a result, it's desirable to have abstinence until marriage. This message has to be thoroughly taught."

Back to other news for June 20, 2005

Adapted from:
06.16.05; Elaine Lies

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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