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Conversations surrounding sexual health and safe sex is often regarded as tapu within Pasifika communities. Normalising talanoa on such topics is the mission of Pasifika leader Christian Munokoa and his team.
Christian’s company Hard Luck Design has teamed up with health promotion agency Te Hiringa Hauora to launch Tapu Vā, an online platform that provides a safe space for people in the community to share their thoughts, experiences and journeys surrounding sexual health.
As one of the creators of Tapu Vā, Christian hopes to provide accurate information to help educate the Pasifika community on sexual health.
“For some people, topics such as [sex] might be uncomfortable, especially having these discussions with certain circles: from family to friends and so on,” Christian says.
“Though this is true – there is a lot of misinformation about sex out there that we hope to dispel through our messaging. We understand that Tapu Vā may not provide all the answers to the questions being asked, but the first stepping stone is to be able to create and share a space where healthy and safe conversations about sexual health and wellbeing can take place.”
Since its launch in June 2022, Tapu Vā is working to make a huge impact on communities within Aotearoa. The website allows viewers to watch Talanoa videos from health professionals, University students and some of Auckland’s Pasifika champions about their personal experiences surrounding sexual health. It also allows viewers to tell their stories anonymously for others to read and encourage others to share their own sexual health and wellbeing stories.
One contributer shared their personal experience on the common concept within Pasifika households of ‘sex before marriage’.
Anonymous0402 wrote: “The only thing we would hear, right up until my older siblings and I left the nest, was ‘do not have sex until you are married’. Nothing else. No encouragement to be safe, or advising us to use protection and contraceptives etc.”
“My older sister and I tend to have conversations about mum’s ideals and the fact that she never questions or holds the same pressure/accountability upon our brother who also lives with his partner. I remember my mum encouraging me to refrain from sex, no matter who I was with, and to “be the good one” who stays a virgin until marriage. It wasn’t until I came home one night crying in my parents’ arms that I had just recently lost my baby (that they had no idea about) that she knew I was no longer a virgin. I was so ashamed and disappointed in myself that I could no longer be “the good one” in my mother’s eyes… I remember the next morning, my mum tried to belittle me by saying something along the lines of ‘I told you. I thought you would’ve told me that you had sex. You haven’t been a virgin this whole time?’ I was so mad at her because I was so broken already and mourning for my baby, yet there she was, breaking any chance of creating a safe space.”
Anonymous0402 goes on to say that they hope our Pasifika communities can break the barriers surrounding talanoa about safe sex because it’s a normal human thing to do.
“I know it’s controversial because majority of us are deeply rooted in our religions and spirituality, [but] our elders and parents need to understand that a safe space to talanoa about all things sexual, (from virginity, to pregnancy, to sexual orientation, rape, porn, and safe sex) is what we need more of rather than their pressures and shaming.”
Hawke’s Bay’s Population Health Advisor Ali Leota weighs in his thoughts on what can be done to minimize the hesitancy around sexual health talanoa.
“It’s about reframing things. In [the older generation’s] eyes it may look like a curse or something bad … but we just need to reframe that narrative to – sex is good,” Ali says.
“[Sex] is a good thing and having kids is a blessing and an honour to celebrate so I think if we could continue to shift the narrative towards things like that then maybe we can talk more open about sex amongst our Pasifika communities.”
To join the Talanoa and read other people’s stories or if you want to tell yours, head to tapu-va.nz for more.