There is an important need to talk openly about sexuality and how it relates to child marriage, how sexuality is closely linked to gender roles and how understanding and addressing this link can help achieve sustainable development goal number 5, Gender Equality. Many have claimed that “talking abut sexuality” is a “personal matter” and not one that is discussed in the public eye, particularly in certain cultural context. However, the United Nations has been talking about sexuality for over 20 years, in negotiation rooms and spaces dealing with women’s health and other important issues. The panelist in the session Why Addressing the control of sexuality is critical to ending child marriage? address the topic with a cultural, social and professional lens noting the values and norms and how it relates to complex women’s issues. The idea that in order to address practices such as child or forced marriage, girls and boys need to be properly educated in order for them to take control of their own sexuality. The key is in programs that work closely with the community, men, women and most importantly religious leaders. Understanding the use of ‘language’ and how to talk to the community in a way that doesn’t add to the taboo and challenge of speaking openly about sexuality even in “safe spaces”.
Archana Dwivedi, Director of the NGO Nirantar in New Delhi, India stated that sexuality is not an issue it is a perspective, as is gender and we need to find a wholesome way to view those norms in order to understand its construct. Dwivedi goes on to say that, sexuality has no beginning or end point, and is informed by gender and sexuality norms and gender norms are informed by sexuality norms. Research in India mapping early and child marriage found that poverty is linked to gender and sexuality norms, however, many young people are marrying out of their own choices, and young people are concerned about many issues other than sexuality. Gender and sexuality norms are linked, and at the same time are constantly challenged by changing cultural views of gender and sexuality which impact girls much deeper, without losing sight that boys are also affected. Panelist Anthony Keedi noted that, if we continue to look at women as the ones we need to provide for, ones that can not provide for themselves, that creates a perpetual need for paths such as child and forced marriage on a social, cultural and economic basis. The concept of taking control of one’s own sexuality and allowing for that control to be given to women is a step towards eradicating child and forced marriage.