Sex has always been an explosive matter. And when it comes to sex education in schools it is virtually an all-out war. But does it need to be?
In recent weeks debate has been raging about the contentious issue of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in our schools.
CSE is one of the United Nations’ key strategies for combating the spread of HIV and AIDS among children and young people.
UNESCO describes CSE as “an age appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, non-judgmental information that enables young people to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights”.
And here is where the battle lines have been drawn.
A number of local advocates have sounded the warning that the initiative is pushing a destructive social agenda and they argue for a curriculum, which focuses on abstinence.
On the other side are the proponents who warn that children have access to information about sex, are engaging in the sex act and they need be fully informed to make wise choices.
Last month, during the debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, respected religious leader Senator David Durant pleaded with the Ministry of Education not to allow comprehensive sexuality education enter our school system, describing it as one of the greatest assaults on the health and innocence of children.
He charged that the programme uses explicit material to promote promiscuity and high-risk sexual behaviour to children as healthy and normal.
Said Durant, “ I do not think it is anything we should impose on our six, seven, eight, nine and ten-year-old children and even children a little older. The main goal of comprehensive sexuality education is to change the sexual norms of society.”
His sentiments have also been echoed by founder of the Pure Sex Centre Ambrose Carter who claimed the programme was teaching children that it was ok to be homsosexual and this was why children were developing homosexual tendencies.
Both men were strongly rebuked by former chief of the Barbados Family Planning Association George Griffith who challenged them to speak facts, while suggesting that their positions were rooted in “deep seated myths and downright misinformation based on the denial and failure to accept that in this day and age, our children cannot be insulated from the realities of today’s twenty first century world”.
He stressed that CSE empowers young people to know and demand their rights and it does not lead to earlier sexual activity or riskier sexual behaviour.
It all sounds like a minefield and little will be accomplished if the shouting match continues.
The fact is too little information prepares no one for life.
To start with, inadequate information on the CSE has led to all sorts of conclusions from the probable to the ridiculous.
Authorities should have adopted the sensible approach of engaging a wide cross section of teachers, parents, social workers, religious leaders and other experts to analyse the CSE and tailor the programme to meet our specific needs.
Parents have a right to say what their children should be exposed to.
Equally, anyone who thinks that children don’t need effective sex education is sticking his/her head in the sand.
Abstinence is definitely the safest of all safe sex measures, and should be the first lesson taught, not just in the classroom, but in the home to our children who are not ready for the consequences of sex.
However, there is a point where we have to accept reality. Our children are engaging in sex and therefore they need information to prevent them from engaging in reckless behaviour that can be deadly.
Families and churches certainly should teach children what they think is best. At the same time, children should also be taught the facts by the finest experts. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to matters of sexuality.