Currently, in Jamaica, those 16 years of age and under are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services (unless parental consent is provided). These services can include help and advice about matters such as contraception, pregnancy, sexual assault, and more. This is one channel to help aid the HIV response, among other health issues, as it creates a uniform, factual foundation for youth to gain vital life skills.
What if a sexually active 14 year old wants to talk about sex but their parents refuse to discuss this taboo subject with them? Or a pregnant 16 year old needs some advice from a health care professional and can’t get parental consent? Unfortunately these situations leave individuals vulnerable and at a heightened risk for HIV, STIs and other health risks.
Teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 are FOUR times more likely to contract HIV, than boys of the same age, in Jamaica.
In Gwen Emmon’s article Rates of HIV and Teen Pregnancy Highlight Sexual Health Education Gap Among Jamaica’s Youth, it states that “Until just six years ago , sex education was virtually invisible in some of Jamaica’s secondary schools. Even after the Ministry of Education incorporated sexuality and sexual health information into the curricula of the nation’s schools in 2006, young people still weren’t getting all the facts they needed to make informed and healthy choices. Due to teachers, church leaders, parents, and community members, the taboo around sex has caused young Jamaican’s to be deprived of a basic life skill and vital health information.”
On Tuesday, April 19, there was an event advocating against the use of sexual and reproductive health services for youth (Comprehensive Sexuality Education, or CSE), titled “Keep Us Free From Evil Powers: How International Agencies are Sexualizing our Children”. An invite was distributed saying “Come out to this extremely important lecture! See how international agencies are pushing ‘sexual rights’ and ‘reproductive rights’ on our children. This information is vital to the protection of our children in Jamaica! Anywhere you hear the words CSE – Comprehensive Sex Education, or SRHR – Sexual Reproductive Health Rights… the agenda to sexualize our children is at work! Alert us! “
This goes against the work of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and our Executive Director made an urgent request for CVC staff and our partner organizations to attend and share our voice in this counter conversation. I attended and it was apparent that misinterpretation has led this group to believe myths about the comprehensive sexual education program (CSE) and it being “dangerous” for children. The event started with a viewing of the video “The War on Children: The Comprehensive Sexuality Education Agenda”. Carol Bridge and Dr. Wayne West led the lecture and discussed their reasons for believing CSE is dangerous:
- Promotes condom use without adequate information
- Claims to prevent pregnancy and HIV/STIs but encourages behaviours that increase the chances of such
- Claims to be age appropriate, however it is not
- Promotes abortion as the right choice
- Promotes under age sex and homosexuality (promiscuity)
- Disregards parents in their child’s sexual and reproductive health
- Promotes disrespect for parents and religious and cultural values
- Promotes high risk sexual behaviours (including anal and oral sex) and teaches they are safe
- Encourages acceptance and exploration of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities
- Explores the dangers of gender being a social construct that confuses young minds
- The purpose of CSE is to promote sexual anarchy
From our standpoint, several alarming opinions and concerns were raised:
- Carol Bridge started her presentation by defining comprehensive as “using every or anything in the aim of getting sexual pleasures (e.g. objects, self, animals etc)”
- Gender is biological and for children who express anything else, help should be sought to overcome the confusion
- The IPP (Family Planning), UNICEF, and the UNFPA have an agenda to sexualise children because it is a multi-billion dollar industry; therefore the more sex children have, the more abortions are done and the more sexual reproductive health services are accessed
- The word prevention was used several times, which is misleading; CSE uses words such as “delay” and “reduce” but not prevent
- The Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) was slammed because of their abortion services, however a representative from the JFPA spoke afterward and brought clarity to the accusation highlighting that they do not provide abortions because it is illegal in Jamaica
- The high rate of babies being birthed outside of wedlock
- It was also noted reproductive health clinics are another name for abortion clinics
A Non-Risk Sexual Education program is the proposed replacement for CSE which would promote no risk behaviours for children and sex only to be had by married heterosexual couples. It would address gender as only being tied to biology and issues of people struggling with their sexuality, but it wouldn’t be encouraged as a normal behaviour.
As the lecture finished, an open Q&A sparked. A few comments were made (in favour of a revised CSE program in Jamaica or the complete abolishment of such) and as soon as a rebuttal came into play, the host announced “Thank you for your comments. That is all the time we have.” How convenient…
These values do a disservice for youth and I am concerned for their health if they are not properly taught evidence based, informative sexual health education.
To believe that youth are not sexually active, is naive; to impose the acceptance of only heterosexual relationships, is unacceptable; and to rally for the discrimination against those who want an abortion or to have a child outside of wedlock, is no one else’s concern as this is a personal matter.
Listen, learn and have an open mind. THIS I believe will influence appropriate change.
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