Issues of faith

Sonke Gender Justice is today, 3 June 2016, having a consultative meeting at our Johannesburg office with faith-based media houses and journalists on the challenges of reporting on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Information (CSE&I) for children.

The rationale driving the meeting is that we live in a world that is becoming more complex, with many children maturing earlier and being exposed to competing sources of information. Because of this the need for comprehensive sexuality education and information has become more urgent. There is a growing need to ensure that children are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and information regarding their sexuality in order for them to be in a better position to navigate the present and the future. In this quest, all sectors of society – families, schools, religious institutions are well placed to influence positive developments in relation to CSE&I for children because they are found in most communities and wield a lot of influence.

Consequently, the media, which all sectors of society identify and engage with in their daily lives is a crucial partner in disseminating positive information on sexuality, sexual health and rights, and HIV and AIDS.

The purpose of the workshop is to have a dialogue where media representatives will share their challenges, experiences and needs in covering sexuality issues. This is a consultative process that will lead to the development of a toolkit aimed at strengthening the delivery of sound Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Information (CSE&I) for children in and through faith communities.

The strategy is to equip faith media houses and faith leaders to develop a child rights approach to engaging with CSE&I for children through the development of a media toolkit and training of faith-based media houses on the toolkit.

CSE&I seeks to equip children with knowledge and skills and a positive view of sexuality and sex. It aims to:

  1. Improve children’s knowledge, attitudes, practices and behaviour through sharing information on sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE) as a strategy to combat the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS.
  2. Reduce stigma and discrimination while building the resilience of children.

In addition, South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world – and children are not spared from these sexual attacks. We are a country in crisis. And it’s a crisis that goes right to the core of our society. The church and all religious institutions has a moral responsibility to make a difference to our rape crisis, to talk out against rape, to support rape survivors and to ensure boys do not grow up to become rapists.

The scourge of rape in South Africa, is highlighted in Every 26 Seconds, a video produced by Issues of Faith, a SABC TV religious programme. Through intimate and personal stories of rape survivors and rapists, Every 26 Seconds raises critical issues around the role of the church and suggests that not enough is being done to heed this call. “Sindi”, who was raped when she was 16, says in the film, “Church was my hope… but the pastor just told me to keep quiet and he will pray for me. All he was worried about was the church. He didn’t care about how I was feeling or what I want.”

Every 26 Seconds aims to raise the national consciousness around this horrific issue by examining patriarchy, both in society and the church and by looking at how men and women view each other and behave towards each other and what leads to a tacit acceptance of the status quo.