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Sex education: Arming the youth with information

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Sex education: Arming the youth with information

MANILA, Philippines - Some lawmakers score what they call attempts to blur the issue of incorporating sex education into the elementary and high school curricula.

Just like the press conference at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday that came complete with graphic comics illustration, Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, author of the Reproductive Health Care Act, says the filing of a class suit against the education departments' plan to teach sex education is a "publicity stunt".

"The problem is they misinform people," Garin laments. "They twist the information by telling the public these are the DOH modules but you insert comics there which are supposed to be banned in schools and addressed by this module."

Citing how comics that were presented during the press conference were being illegally distributed in schools "to arouse the youth's imagination," Garin made her case against Imbong's group.

"That's the reason why it's important to implement sexuality or reproductive health, and it's appropriate to present it in a different curriculum for elementary and high school."

On Monday, a group of parents, led by Attorney Jo Imbong, filed a case before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court asking it to stop the Department of Education's (DepEd) plan to teach sex education early in selected schools.

Learning from experience

She says they are pushing for the use of modules backed by international organizations, like the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in teaching sex education in the country's classrooms.

"This module, some parts have been copied from other countries who've been practicing reproductive health or sexuality education, have proven to be very effective in reducing the age of first sexual contact is concerned, reducing the incidence of induced abortion, premarital sex, and even delaying the age of marriage."

Garin adds, the modules, which teach children about good hygiene and even teaches school children to preserve virginity, can be taken home and reinforced by parental counsel.

Moving with the times

Garin admits it is important to move with the times.

"It's very difficult to live in a society where we will be hypocritical and pretend that nothing is happening. But as early as grade 4 and 3, children, especially those in public schools, already have girlfriends and boyfriends.

While debates over the grade level for starting sex education had stalled past efforts in pushing the measure, Garin says, today, they are more flexible.

"During the latter part of the 14th Congress, the dissent was more at what age to start sex education, in grade 4 or 5 or at secondary school," Garin says. "The UN and WHO have repeatedly said that the best time to start and initiate reproductive health education is at age 10. If it will hinder the passage of the bill, we can always delay it to high school, and if nothing is wrong with it, then we can begin in grade school."
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