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19 June 2010

Dispute in Philippines over sex education

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The United Nations on Friday backed a move by the Philippines to introduce sex education among primary and high-school students that has sparked a row with the influential Roman Catholic Church.

The UN stressed that the country was a signatory to an international treaty on the rights of children that commits member-countries to providing proper information to girls and boys about their bodies, as reported by AFP.

“It is the obligation of the state to ensure that all adolescent girls and boys are provided with accurate and appropriate information on how to protect their health and practice healthy behaviors,” it said in a statement.

“The United Nations will continue to work with government . . . to respect, fulfill and protect the rights of girls and boys to comprehensive information regarding their health and their bodies,” the statement added.

“Global evidence shows that giving clear, appropriate information to adolescents does not increase promiscuity but helps them make responsible decisions,” it said.

The government this week began introducing its Adolescent Reproductive Health program in 80 public elementary and 79 high schools.

The scheme will later be expanded nationwide, in what the government said could hopefully reduce the country’s high population growth rate, limit unwanted teenage pregnancies and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) attacked the program, warning that it encouraged promiscuity among the youth.

The bishops demanded that the government stop the program, saying that sex education was better left to parents and taught within the confines of the home.

The UN also on Friday acknowledged that parents played a pivotal role in teaching their children about their sexuality, but noted that people in authority such as teachers or doctors could explain the process better.

The government has often locked horns with church leaders over population control issues in devoutly Catholic Philippines that has more than 90 million people.

In one instance, church leaders called for the sacking of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral after she launched a campaign to hand out free condoms on Valentine’s Day this year as part of the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Cabral has since stood her ground by continuing to support sex education in elementary and secondary schools.

Educators are not on her side.

A consultant to the CBCP has revealed that many teachers are apprehensive about teaching sex education to students but are forced to do it over fears of being sacked.


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