Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SEX EDUCATION, Anyone?

Amidst the brouhaha caused by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines's (CBCP) rejection of sex education modules introduced by former DepEd secretary Monico Valisno, cases of premarital sex resulting in teenage pregnancies continue to soar. The debate not only touches on the moral and legal acceptability of the instructional materials but it also reveals the dynamics of power between the Roman Catholic Church and the Philippine government. Fact: The ghost of frailocracy still haunts us.

The ruckus commenced when former Department of Health chief Esperanza Cabral started distributing condoms last Valentine’s Day as part of the education campaign against HIV-AIDS. Cabral gained the ire of the bishops and politico-religious conservatives who considered the program as a misuse of public funds and an encroachment to the private lives of citizens.

The controversy was followed by the move of former DepEd secretary Valisno to introduce sex education to basic education curriculum. DepEd Memorandum No. 26 called for the integration of reproductive health concerns into the existing Population Education (PopEd) program for elementary and secondary school students.

The CBCP and the Ang Kapatiran Party filed a class suit against the sex education proposal saying that it “assaults the values and moral sensibilities of the youth." Weeks after, a Quezon City court dismissed their petition for a temporary restraining order.

SPECTRUM OF OPINIONS
The prelates have been, time and again, accused of clinging to Jurassic values which are incompatible to the needs of the time. Critics say that they should never engage in issues which are simply not their domain. Simply put, if they are really sexually abstinent, how can they speak on the topic of sex?

The president, a Catholic, already declared that "zero education” “might lead to wrong decisions." It is imperative that young people are educated regarding the concern.

Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz believes that sex education should start at an early age. This, however, must be complemented by systematic and effective training of teachers.

The current DepEd chief has been silent on the issue, saying “sex education” is not a priority in the first two years of Aquino administration. Nonetheless, his department will initiate consultations on the matter.

Others perceive the teaching of sex education as an instrument of promoting promiscuity. This does not have any scientific and empirical basis. A UN-funded research reveals that sexuality education rarely, if ever, leads to early sexual initiation. It must be noted that 1998 Aids Prevention Act (Republic Act 8504) already calls for HIV/AIDS education in schools.

ENGAGE THE PARENTS

Parties are barking at the wrong tree. Let set the records straight. The main culprit in the increasing number of teenage pregnancies are parents themselves who do not assume their primary role in educating their children about responsible sexuality. As Professor Randy David puts its

...the family is indeed the primary school for love and intimacy. But, when the family drops these values in favor of other values like money or power, it quickly loses its distinguishing mark as an institution. The resulting gap is never adequately filled by other institutions—not by the school or by the church. When the family fails to deliver on its basic nurturing functions, the impact on society is incalculable...”

If parents neglect their responsibility to educate the youth about human sexuality, the government and religious organizations often feel that they should take the cudgels to combat the problems caused by such negligence. But, the influence of social institutions is minimal compared to the relational pressure parents exert over their children. The government is legally-bound to only complement, and not supplant the job of parents, as written in Article 2, Section 12 of the Constitution.

The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.

One of the main fears of the Catholic Church is the lack of competent teachers who would handle sex education seminars. The values of the facilitators can easily reflect on their pedagogy. The bishops are not also comfortable with the term "sex education", which according to them is ladened with sensual meaning. They would rather call it as a seminar on human sexuality.

Sex education during my high school years came as a shock because those who introduced it to my “virgin” mind were more concerned with the mechanics of sex. Instead of focusing on more relevant issues (i.e. effects of population growth and spread of Sexually-Transmitted Diseases), we were more exposed to the rudiments of fellatio and cunnilingus.

Communication between the church and parents is crucial in this regard. If families find the topic of sex too hot to handle, they can request their religious denomination to provide proper guidance. Article 14, Section 3(3) of the Constitution provides for the following:

At the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high schools within the regular class hours by instructors designated or approved by the religious authorities of the religion to which the children or wards belong, without additional cost to the Government.

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