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Debate Competition Highlights Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Sri Lankan Youth

13 August 2011
A debater speaks out his opinion about sexual and reproductive health. Photo: UNFPA Sri Lanka

COLOMBO – The first nationwide youth led debate competition on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) was recently held in the Sri Lankan capital in celebration of the International Year of Youth with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. This came at an important time as the population of young people is currently at 5.6 million – the highest in Sri Lanka’s demographic history. 

Sri Lankan youth have limited knowledge and access to information on sexual and reproductive health, pre-marital and unprotected sex, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS. With sexuality being culturally a ‘taboo subject’ to talk about with elders and teachers, there is little guidance for young people on how to approach sex and the issues related to it. It was therefore seen as essential to create a dialogue among young people on the importance of ASRH and allow them to raise their voice about the problems they face in day-to-day life.

The debate competition brought up some of the most pressing yet controversial issues affecting Sri Lankan youth and saw young people from across the country becoming passionate about their points of view on certain topics. The increase of the world population to 7 billion, the role of new social media in ASRH, young people’s right to contraception, and the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health education in schools were among the issues heatedly argued by the young debaters. Twenty-five district teams were sent to Colombo to compete in more rounds of gruelling debates, and were judged by prominent activists, lawyers, politicians and university professors. The debates were in Sinhala or Tamil, depending on the language used by the teams.

At the conclusion, the Kurunegala and Mannar teams were declared as winners, with the most convincing arguments and the best delivery skills. During the awarding ceremony, inspirational speeches were given by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, and a famous young actress and provincial council member. They all highlighted the importance of ASRH and its role in shaping the lives of young people in Sri Lanka.

For more information, please contact: 
Lankani Sikurajapathy, tel. +94-11-2580840, +94-77-3411614, sikurajapathy@unfpa.org