08 June 2010

Sex education for Filipinos

The subject of sex will always be a problem for parents. Just how would you tell kids that they could become pregnant if they love or would be doomed for the rest of their lives for a moment of bodily pleasure? Not too many would disagree that sex is not equitable to love. Not everyone also understands the numerous reasons why certain species do it.

In the Philippines, its society abhors sex between minors, between people with no romantic relations as well as between people who are already bound to someone else. And so, its Department of Education (DepEd) chose to introduce the Adolescent Reproductive Health subject despite the 'vehement opposition of the Catholic Church’ in 80 elementary schools and 79 high schools.

A sex education class is ‘necessary in light of the alarming number of teenage pregnancies’, Education Secretary Mona Valisno maintains, the Catholic Church admits it or not.

In the UAE, Emirati social worker Wedad Lootah recently wrote a book on sex published in Arabic and English for pupils as young as 4 years old to someone as old as 16. It would be a three-book series: a picture book for the kindergarten, one with Islamic teachings for the juniors, and another with societal and scientific content for the high schoolers.

Some female Saudi students from the King Saud University’s Special Education Department thought so too after finding out that there are parents who approved of such a class since (1) they themselves were reluctant to share such information and (2) they were afraid that their children could be sexually harassed or abused.

The Shoura Council and the Human Rights Commission itself led by Mohammad Al-Sheddi agreed with the plan. “The Shoura recently approved a protocol to protect children from being exploited for pornography. Children should be equipped with enough information that would allow them to differentiate between right and wrong, and detect whether they are being used or lured into a situation in which they may be abused.”

Under the Obama administration, the United States has allotted $114 million to an "evidence-based approach" program to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Michael Carrera, an educator on teen sexuality and adolescent development started advocating against teenage pregnancy since his career in the Bronx University 50 years ago. He has started a number of after-school programs on 1984 sponsored by the New York City's Children's Aid Society. Today, those programs are incorporated into the US curriculum.

Giving young people information about sex is not the same thing as giving them permission to do it, Carrera pointed out. "Sexual ignorance is not bliss. You do not make responsible decisions in the dark." It would be already late if people wait for children to become teenagers first before talking to them about sex as views on relationships and roles of men and women are ‘hard to break down’ once inculcated.

So far, Susan Philliber, an independent evaluator, was impressed with the impact of Carrera’s program. Her team followed some students for four years all throughout their high school. Only 10% of the girls following Carrera’s model got pregnant. The girls were also taught to use contraceptives to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections.

Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea, India, Japan, China and Sri Lanka already ‘have a systematic policy framework for teaching about sex within schools’ while Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have just assessed their adolescent populace’s reproductive health needs. Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan were completely without coordinated sex education programs.

Worldwide, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the BBC World Service talked about sex, family, contraception and parenting in a 12-part series entitled Sexwise. Teachers in the Netherlands, on the other hand, encourage their students age 12 and 15 years old in an open talk dubbed as Lang leve de liefde (“Long Live Love”). “AIDS was an impetus for sex education in schools,” said Jo Reinders of Soa-bestrijding, a Dutch foundation composed of members of the church, health officials and family planning organizations. “It forced teachers to become more explicit and to discuss norms and values using a participatory approach.”

Not everyone favors deliberating about sex overtly though. Respondents who took part in an online poll ‘thought all sex education books should be banned.’ Lootah herself has received death threats because of her conviction.

There is wisdom in knowing about pain firsthand. If the Filipinos would not understand why a sacred act to show affection could be detrimental in the long run, Pilipina Ako does not know how they would even appreciate life and love.


No comments: