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close this bookMezzo: For Young People by Young People (IPPF, 1997, 52 p.)
close this folderPERSONAL
View the documentFOCUS ON: sexual abuse. No means no
View the documentShazia's dilemma. Who chooses your marriage partner
View the documentDear Pramilla. Mezzo's problem page
View the documentPregnant. Consider your options with a little help from mezzo
View the documentViewpoint. UNFPA essa competition winners
View the documentPrivate and confidential. The essential qualities to look for in a family planning clinic
View the documentWhat if...? Do any of these situations sound familiar?

FOCUS ON: sexual abuse. No means no

If someone makes an unwanted sexual advance towards you, which may be physical or emotional, it can cause pain, grief, fear and anxiety. Even if you have made it clear that you do not want to be touched, leered at or spoken to in a suggestive manner, you may be powerless to stop someone's advances. Sexual abuse is about power. Power of one person over another. It can happen anywhere and it can happen to anyone. There are many different forms of sexual abuse.


Sexual abuse describes unwanted sexual contact and is usually done by someone who knows you - father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather, brother, boyfriend, family friend, teacher. Sexual intercourse between close blood relatives is called incest. Child sexual abuse involves an adult using a child for sexual pleasure.

Sexual abuse can involve threats, humiliation and violence. Both boys and girls are abused, although girls are abused more often than boys. The abuser is usually, although not always, a man. Child abuse is often unreported because children are taught to obey and trust adults. A child may not always realize that abuse is wrong. Sexual abuse can lead to long-term emotional problems in later life.

Sexual harassment describes remarks or physical gestures, made in a sexual manner, which cause physical or emotional pain. If you are labelled a "slut" because people believe that you have bad several sexual partners, it is sexual harassment. If your boss at work touches you in a sexual way against your will, it is sexual harassment.

Rape describes a violent act in which a person is forced to have sex with someone without consent. Victims of rape are usually women although male rape (men forcing men) can also occur. People who are raped are often threatened by physical violence. Many people think of rapists as "violent strangers" but in reality, most victims of rape know their assailant. Even if things have started to get physical - kissing, cuddling, fondling - and the guy goes further than you want him to, it is still rape. This is date rape - no means no, whatever the circumstances.

Although there are laws in most countries to protect people from sexual violence and abuse, rape and abuse are often unreported and rarely discussed.

Why? Because many people blame the victim by saying things like:

-if a girl says no, she really means yes;
-if a girl dresses in a certain way she is asking for it;
-if a girl does not want to have sex she can prevent it.

All the above statements are myths. The reality is that the blame and responsibility are the assailant's and not the victim's.

All sexual contact between you and another person should only happen with your consent and because you want it to happen, The bottom line is no means no, not maybe or yes.


If it happens to you, what can you do?

There are many forms of sexual violence and all of them can be harmful. If it happens to you, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault.

Dealing with abuse or rape is not easy. There is no right or wrong way to react - everyone reacts differently. However, you are not alone and sharing your experience with others may make you feel better.

The first thing that you should do is go to a hospital or a doctor for a physical check-up. You may also decide to go to the police or any other authority to file a complaint. Rape and many forms of abuse are against the law in almost every country in the world. In some countries rape within marriage is also illegal. To go to the police isn't always easy. You may be afraid of the consequences. You may want to take friends and family with you for support.

It is a long and painful process for someone who is abused to regain confidence. You may even need professional help, but often the healing process is helped by talking about the incident with someone you can trust It is important to realize that the feelings you are experiencing are all natural reactions to rape or abuse.

Female genital mutilation

In some parts of the world, particularly in Africa and in certain parts of Asia, young girls are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Over 100 million girls and women have been genitally mutilated and more than 2 million young girls are mutilated each year. Female genital mutilation is the removal of all or part of the external female genitalia leaving only a small vaginal opening.

Since female genital mutilation involves the removal of all or part of the clitoris, it dramatically reduces sexual enjoyment and fulfillment. People who practise female genital mutilation believe it has cultural and traditional significance, preserving virginity until marriage and controlling a woman's sexuality.

The "operation" is often performed without anaesthetic and girls, usually between 7 and 15 years old, experience pain, shock and bleeding. Later they may have difficulty concentrating at school or college and experience difficulties in urinating, pain during intercourse and complications in childbirth.


Prostitution (commercial sex) is also considered to be a form of sexual abuse. All over the world young girls and boys are forced to sell their bodies. They may have no choice, because often this is the only way that they can support their families.

If it happens to a friend, the best way to help is to be there for them!

Shazia's dilemma. Who chooses your marriage partner


Photo story

Dear Pramilla. Mezzo's problem page

Problem page

Aunty Pramilla will answer all of your questions and sort out your problems -send 'em in. We regret that Aunty Pramilla is unable to enter into any personal correspondence.


Peer pressure

I've been going out with my girlfriend for a few months now and things are going really well. We are both very happy and have great fun when we're together. You may wonder what the problem is then. Well, everything is fine except my mates assume that we've had sex even though we haven't. At first it didn't really bother us, but now when I'm with my friends, they're always going on about it and are making it into a big deal. It's beginning to get embarrassing. What can I do?

Anon, New Zealand

People can feel pressure from their friends at any stage and on any issue in their lives. We all need to feel accepted by our friends. But it's wrong to let them tell you how to live. What you do or don't do with your girlfriend is a matter between you and your girlfriend and no one else. Obviously you've discussed whether or not to have sex with your girlfriend and that's all that counts. Now you have to find a way to deal with your friends. It's probably best to be clear and honest about it. That doesn't mean you have to tell them the full story. Just say that ifs a matter between you and your girlfriend.

Arranged marriage

I'm 14 and at the moment my parents are trying to find a husband for me. I'm afraid that they'll choose someone I won't like, What can I do? I love my parents very much, and I don't want to hurt them. How can I be sure that they'll choose the right man for me?

Scared, India

Marriage is a significant ceremony for many people. The way that a partner is chosen varies between different cultures and religions. Sometimes young people can choose their own partner; sometimes parents choose for them- Obviously you're a little worried about the choice that your parents make for you. Try and discuss your fears with your parents. Think about what kind of husband would make you happy and feel secure. Maybe you can also ask your parents to wait until you have a better idea of what you want and need.

Should I wait?

I'm 18 and I think that I've met the man of my dreams. The only problem is that he doesn't know it yet. I'm completely in love and want to go all the way with him. We've been going out for a while now but he's never suggested that we have sex. We haven't really talked about it either. I really want to prove that I love him, Should I be more forward or should I wait? At the moment, he is just kissing and cuddling me, but goes no further. Is this normal?

Impatient, Brazil

Love and affection are shown in many ways. Sometimes it's obvious in the way that you behave with someone you love. Being in love can be very confusing. But you don't hove to have sex just because you're in love. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have sex. But if you do, you must both wont it. and keep it safe. You and your boyfriend have to work out for yourselves what is good for you. The only way to find out is to talk openly about it. Tell him how you feel and find out what he wants. Maybe he's just shy or he may not be ready yet.

I'm so nervous

I'm 17 and I've got a new girl friend. Although we have slept together, we've never had sex. It's not that we haven't tried. Every time we try, I get really nervous and lose my erection. My girlfriend thinks that I don't fancy her any more. The thing is though, I've told her that I'm sexually experienced but actually I'm a virgin. I'm worried that if we have sex, she'll realize that I've never done it before and she won't want to be with me I love her very much and I can't bear the thought of losing her. What should I do?

Embarrassed, Camerron

Many young (and older) men can have the some problem as you. The penis is an object of pleasure but also of anxiety. Men often worry about the size of their penis or their performance in bed. They desperately want to be good lovers. Unfortunately, erections and anxiety ore not a good combination. The more you worry, the more likely you are to have problems with your erection. In your case the best way out is to be open with your girlfriend and take it from there. Virginity is nothing to be ashamed of! Maybe you are not yet ready to have sex. There are many other ways to enjoy each other. She may find you more attractive when she finds out you are a virgin because then she doesn't feel she has to "perform" either.


Dumped and hurt

I have been going out with this girl for more than two years. We've had our problems, but we have always been able to discuss them. Over and over again she assured me how much she loved me. Then suddenly, out of the blue, she told me she wanted to stop seeing me because she wasn't sure whether she was still in love with me. I feel terrible, not only because she left me but also because I am sure that she has met someone else and is seeing him behind my back, I feel like I have lost two years of my life.

Depressed, UK

You must feel very hurt, losing a person you thought loved you. Whether you are the person who is doing it or whether you are the victim, breaking up is hard and sad and it can hurt your pride. But it is better when a person is straight and honest about it. Getting over a relationship takes time, sometimes a long time. You get angry, jealous, desperate, sad and uncertain about yourself. It is good to accept those feelings for the time being. You probably think that nobody understands what you ore going through. But you will get over it eventually. It may help to take your mind off it all and maybe meet some new people. A new relationship is probably the last thing on your mind, but eventually this will happen again.

Pregnancy fear

I'm 18 and I live in a town where everybody knows each other. I've been going out with a guy far a few months. Two months ago, after a party, we had sex. He told me how much he loved me and that he would take care of me. I thought it would be safe. Now I haven't seen him for a couple of weeks. My period is late and I am getting desperate. I cannot go to the doctor here, because I am sure he will tell my parents.

Anxious, Mexico

It must be a very difficult time for you; not knowing whether you ore pregnant and losing your boyfriend at the some time. First, you have to find out as soon as possible whether you ore pregnant or not. Your doctor should be confidential, that is your right If you still don't trust him. you must try and find another doctor or a family planning center to help you. For the time being this is the most important thing. Later you can decide whether you still want to involve your "former" boyfriend. Maybe it is better to forget about him. From the way you describe him, he doesn't deserve you.

Could it be better?

My boyfriend and I have sex regularly. Everything is OK. But I cannot help thinking that it could be better than this. I often find our lovemaking boring. I do get excited, and I am sure he likes it. very much. I am not sure whether I ever have an orgasm, so I don't know what it feels like to have one in the first place. I do love my boyfriend very much and I don't want to lose him, but I feel something has got to change.

Dissatisfied, Latvia

A lot of women don't have an orgasm during intercourse. When you make love you have to concentrate on many things. To concentrate on yourself and your own body and feelings isn't always easy. Nobody can tell you exactly what an orgasm is and you cannot expect your boyfriend to do this. You can find out yourself by masturbation or touching your vagina and clitoris. There is no set way of doing this. You have to explore yourself and find out what you like best.

If you want to make your lovemaking more exciting, maybe you could discuss this with your boyfriend. It could be that he doesn't know about alt this either.

Confused feelings

I'm 19 and I have a problem which I cannot discuss with anyone. I have been going out with a girl. for some time now. I think she is very sweet and I would like to be with her for the rest of my life. But I also have feelings for guys. I have felt like this before, but I used to ignore it. But now I feel I can no longer deny that I am also attracted to men in a sexual way. I've met this guy at work who really likes me. I am not sure whether he is gay or not but my feelings for him are getting stronger all the time.

Confused, USA

It must be very confusing for you to have all these different feelings. A lot of guys go through exactly what you're going through light now. Understanding your sexuality doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. It could be possible that you have strong homosexual feelings. It could also be possible that you are no longer physically attracted to your girlfriend. This doesn't mean that you will not be attracted to other women. Don't rush yourself into actions and into decisions you may regret later. It may be on idea to take time out of relationships altogether. Then you can get a better idea about what you actually want.


Pregnant. Consider your options with a little help from mezzo

If one of your friends became a parent..

"If my friend became a parent, I'd say 'cool', and wish them luck."
15, F, New Zealand

"I will feel happy for them. If they have any problems or difficulties, I will try my best to help them."
20, F, Hong Kong

"I have friends who are parents. I'm glad I'm not in their shoes though. One would have to be responsible. I don't think I'm ready for that kind of a commitment."
19, F, UK pregnant

Your period is late, you've had penetrative sex without using a contraceptive... you may be pregnant. Consult your doctor or visit your family planning clinic as soon as possible for a pregnancy test.

If you're not pregnant and you have no desire to become a parent you should discuss the contraceptive options available to you with your doctor or at a family planning clinic, and be more careful in the future. Next time you may not be so lucky...


Congratulations! Having a child is one of the greatest gifts in life and can be an incomparable source of joy and satisfaction. Good luck!



If you are pregnant, you will need to spend some time thinking about what you are going to do. You may find it easier to talk to someone you can trust. This could be your partner, a girlfriend, your parents, a teacher or a trained counselor. This may be a difficult time for you. Try to stay positive and calm. Whether or not to have a child is a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life.


· what do I want out of life? what do I think is important?
· could I handle a job/education at the same time?
· do I have enough energy to handle both?
· can I afford to support a child?
· do I know how much it costs to raise a child?
· do I Like children?
· do I expect my child to make my life happy?
· does my partner want to have a child? have we talked about our reasons?
· could we share our love with a child without jealousy?
· do I want a boy or a girl? what if I don't get what I want?
· would I want my child to achieve things that I wish I had achieved but didn't?

· have and care for the baby
· have the baby and have it adopted

· consult your doctor about the possibility of having an abortion

IT WOULD BE UNWISE to consider having an abortion in an unlicensed "clinic" performed by unqualified health personnel which is both dangerous and illegal. You may have other options available to you (see above).

Viewpoint. UNFPA essa competition winners



HISTORY demonstrates that the imposition of extremely strict taboos on sexual relations yields no effective results. On the contrary, various benighted interpretations of the sex act emerge which have a pernicious effect on young people. Heavy-handedness, "brainwashing" and moralizing will not stop the young from engaging in sexual activity.
Elmira Gilmudinova, 17, Kazakhstan

ON the one hand, society places a protective veil over the realm of sex, preventing young people from getting the knowledge they need; on the other, young people's senses are excited... Young people thus remain ignorant of sexual knowledge while being subjected to sensory stimulation that excites their desires, so how can teenage pregnancy be prevented under such conditions? I believe that the fundamental solution is to provide sex education to young people.
Zhou Quan, 18, China

THE misconception is that sex education teaches people how to have sex, whereas it actually teaches young people about the development of their body- reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives. Because adults do not like to discuss sex, adolescents gel most of their information about sex from their friends and from the media. Most of the time friends do not have all the information that a teenager should be given, or worse, the information is not correct... I think sex education should be taught in schools, but the parents must be responsible for this too, because schools may take a narrow view of what informations is to be given.
Nadia Blaja, 16, Moldova

I MET this girl in my village the other week. She was pregnant with her seventh child getting married at the age of 14 to a 17 year old boy of her own caste. Being of a low caste with no education, she didn't have any control over her own life... If Mona had been given the opportunity of education, to make her own money, and awareness of her body she would not become the slave of the tradition and the society. This would cause greater independence and higher quality of her life.
Hari Ghimire, 20, Nepal

THINK before you act. Sex has more disadvantages than advantages at our age. It won't kill you to wall. Your pals are not the ones who might end up out of school, without a job, pregnant. You are. Let your boyfriend understand. If his brain is actually above his belt, he'll comprehend your reasons for not rushing into that as yet. It you decide to take the plunge, be absolutely sure it's what you want and make sure you're well-protected. A mistake could be costly.
Melissa Johnson, 14, Jamaica

A WOMAN gives birth and the first question she must answer to her friends is what sex the baby is. When it's a boy, everyone is very happy and there is the famous expression "se gan gallina" which is roughly the same as saying, "you won the lottery", yet when It's a girl, people say - with satisfaction but less fanfare - "now your home's little servant has been born". This shows that In society women serve only for houseworks... People must be educated not to disapprove when a woman carries out activities which only men can allegedly perform, such as working as a gas pump attendant, fixing cars, running a business, and all the other activities we are capable of, and also not to disapprove of men who help out at home or in some other activities which until now have only been done by women.
Carolina Leonor Ruiz Herrera, 18, Guatemala

I THINK the media must play a role in this raising of awareness, as must schools and clubs and youth organizations. They must try to learn young people's opinions, particularly with regard to subjects relating to population and development. In order that in future, every person is able to enjoy all his rights and freedoms, including the rights to education and health, without discrimination on the grounds of sex, language, ethnic origin or religion.
Saad Al-Din Mahmud Zaidan, 19, Egypt

Excerpts from some of the winning entries of the UNFPA International Youth Essay Contest 1996: "Promoting Responsible Reproductive Behaviour".

Private and confidential. The essential qualities to look for in a family planning clinic

Family planning clinics


"I would not feel embarrassed but I would want to know that my business is confidential."

19, F, USA

"I would like to be guaranteed privacy and confidentiality, of course, I would also like to be told all the truth."

19, M, Lesotho

"Confidentiality is very important. But above all a patient would always be happy with a reasonably special treatment. However, exaggerated care might have the opposite effect."

21, M, Algeria



"Not condescending... or patronising, just with some dignity and respect."

18, F, UK

"They should treat me according to my health problems. I should not be asked to take my clothes off when I have a headache."

21, F, Lesotho

"I would like them to treat me with respect. They should respect my opinion and my problems. They should not neglect or underestimate any problem that might seem trivial to them."

21, F, Iraq

"Treat me like a person with sense, with an open mind, not judgmental. I have parents already, so don't treat me like a child "

22, F, USA

"I would like to be treated with respect, in a non-judgmental, client-centred, youth, gender and sexuality sensitive environment, and of course with patience."

19, M, USA

Convenience and accessibility

"I am not married. How can I go to a family planning clinic?"

19, F, India

"I would not be embarrassed to be in a clinic. Everyone else is there for the same reasons; better to be safe than sorry."

21, M, USA

"There is no point having clinics which are only open when we're at school."

17, F, UK

Friendly environment

"They should be kind to me."

17, F, Cameroon

"Wish that they were more like friends that I could confide in."

19, F, Sri Lanka

"I want to be made comfy - that is be given a steaming mug of hot chocolate and some biscuits or a real cool glass of lemonade if it's hot. On a serious note I would like to be handled in a manner that won't upset me."

21, M, Botswana

"I would like a warm welcome so that I feel free to explain my problems."

20, M, Lesotho

What if...? Do any of these situations sound familiar?

Love and lust

You know a girl in your class.

You always look at her from a distance, but you have never spoken to her. It seems she hardly notices you. You really fancy her, but you don't have the courage to talk to her.

What do you do?

Your best friend has been going with a guy for a couple of months.

They seem to be very much in love. The three of you often go out together. You've got to know your friend's boyfriend and each time you see him, you like him more. You think you are falling in love with him.

What do you do?

Every week you go shopping for your mother.

In one of the shops, there is a guy working there who you really like. He is always very friendly with you and he is always making jokes with you. He once took you out for a coffee. Now he is asking you out again. You really want to be close to him, but you are afraid of what might happen. You are a virgin and you feel that this is important for you and your family.

What do you do?

Recently you went out with a girl.

You have the feeling that she is madly in love with you. You like her, but you don't share the same feelings. Now she wants you to come over to her place. You know that you will be alone with her. You expect she will ask you to have sex with her.

What do you do?

You are at a party.

You've met a guy you have never seen before. You're having a good time together, talking, drinking and dancing, when the guy asks you to come over to his place for a cup of coffee.

What do you do?

You take a girl out to the cinema.

Afterwards you have a drink together. You fancy her, but you are not sure how she feels. The girl opens her bag and you see she has got some condoms.

What do you do?


All young people of the world regardless of sex, religion, colour, sexual orientation or mental and physical ability have the following rights as sexual beings

1. The right to be yourself - free to make your own decisions, to express yourself, to enjoy sex, to be safe, to choose to marry (or not to marry) and plan a family.

2. The right to know - about sex, contraceptives, STDs/HIV and about your rights.

3. The right to protect yourself and be protected - from unplanned pregnancies, STDs/HIV and sexual abuse.

4. The right to have health care - which is confidential, affordable, of good quality and given with due respect.

5. The right to be involved - in planning programmes with and for youth, attending meetings/seminars etc, at all levels and trying to Influence governments through appropriate means.