The following story is from Vietnam and reports on an innovative program that provides sexual and reproductive health information to couples who aspire to marriage in that country. In fact, it appears that the couples complete the seminars before getting their marriage certificate.
After ‘I do’: Linking Marriage Ceremonies with Sexuality Education in Vietnam
HA LONG CITY, Viet Nam -“I felt like a fish out of water before getting married. When I listened to talks about safe sex, I did not really understand what it was. There were many things about married life that I wanted to know, but I did not know who I should ask,” recalls Ms. Hanh. She and her husband, Mr. Cuong, were among the first to be invited to counseling sessions on sexual and reproductive health.
The main focus of this model program – implemented with technical assistance from UNFPA – is to provide health education to young couples before they start families. Sexual behavior and norms are changing rapidly in Viet Name where a third of the population is under 24. Yet one-third of young people still face barriers when trying to access reproductive health information or services they require and deserve.
The initiative, entitled “Sexual Reproductive Health Communication and Counseling Integration in Marriage Registration Ceremonies”, has been implemented in four provinces since 2008. It’s an initiative designed and implemented by the Viet Nam Family Planning Association with technical assistance from the UNFPA and financial support of the Government of Luxembourg.
Before the certificate is signed, an opportunity to prepare for marriage
The counseling includes interactive sessions that promote gender equality, discourage gender-based and domestic violence, encourage men to take on household and child-rearing responsibilities and generally aim to bolster women’s status in the family and society. Many communication and awareness-raising activities have been organized, with participation from adolescents and young people, to equip them with information and knowledge related to pregnancy, family planning, reproductive health, and prevention of HIV. After the counseling, young couples receive marriage registration certificates in formal ceremonies.
This multi-sectoral approach is based on an understanding that reproductive and sexual health issues are an important aspect of personal development, with links to a range of other health and social services, according to Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam. “Promoting knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, as well as conflict resolution and negotiation skills, can help young people protect themselves from non-consensual sex, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,” he added. “It can also help them make responsible and informed decisions about their lives.”
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