Comprehensive sexuality education: an overlook

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Martina Trevisiol, a third-year Medical student at the University of L’Aquila, Italy. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Every year 25 million unsafe abortions occur (representing nearly half of all abortions) and it results in over 47 000 annual preventable deaths. Unsafe abortions have a tendency to occur in low-income countries where access to health services is poorer and in regions where abortion laws are restrictive. Despite research data showing that abortion rates are similar in most countries, regardless of abortion restrictions, this right continues to be challenged and infringed. The only tangible difference setting up these barriers makes whether these abortions are conducted safely or not.

Our responsibility as medical students is to advocate for the prioritization of maternal health care services so that no mother is left behind. Not only, we, as future healthcare professionals, have the responsibility to let adolescents know their possibilities in such a way

Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet research shows that most adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.

Comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to protect and advocate for their health, well-being, and dignity by providing them with a necessary toolkit of knowledge, attitudes, and skills. It is a precondition for exercising full bodily autonomy, which requires not only the right to make choices about one’s body but also the information to make these choices in a meaningful way. And because these programs are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.

How can we, as medical students, fill this gap?

Advocating reproductive health rights means not only marching in the streets, being part of standing committees, or fighting discrimination on the net. It also means creating moments of Peer Education, moments of Non-Formal Education in schools, universities, and campuses.

Thanks to this kind of education, with the creation of a safe space in which adolescents can ask anything without being judged, they feel free to solve their doubts and this is one of the safest ways to prevent unsafe behaviors.

Being aware of the risks of unsafe abortions but also knowing that exist a lot of safe family planning methods is on the basis for a more concious generation of human beings.

In Italy, every year medical students held whole session days of Sexual Education addressed to high school students, to prevent STI spread and unwanted pregnancies that might lead to unsafe abortions.

Although in Italy legal abortion is guaranteed, we truly believe this is not a long-term solution.

It is our duty to fill this gap. It is our responsibility to stand for reproductive health rights and to speak out for every human being who cannot.

We must stand for it.

About the author

Martina Trevisiol is a third-year Medical student at the University of L’Aquila, Italy. She’saffiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) – SISM Italy. Advocating for Human and Women’s Rights since she was a little girl, she’s now facing new challenges both in medical and non-medical fields.

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