The need to address the “upstream” antecedents of sexual health risks of adolescent and young adult women is increasingly reflected in international declarations. For example, the 2011 United Nations General Assembly declaration on HIV/AIDS, called for elimination of “gender inequalities and gender-based abuse and violence and increase the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves from HIV” (41). The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers gender a crucial component in adolescent sexual health and sexual violence.(42)
While mounting evidence points to the association between gender attitudes and sexual behaviours, it also shows that the current focus on risk reduction is “too far downstream” (43) while little is known about the upstream processes linking gender socialization in early adolescence to healthy sexuality and subsequent sexual behaviours across the life span. The understanding of such a process underpins any effort to empower young girls and boys to determine their future sexual and reproductive health trajectories.
The overall objective of the Global Early Adolescence Study (GEAS) is to contribute to sexual health of adolescents globally, and in Flanders in particular.