Of Biology and Theology: Why we need to talk to young people about sex
by Cha Coronel Datu
A 12 year old being treated for STD … an 8 year old raped by a 9 year old… a 13 year old getting pregnant and then undergoing emergency caesarean section after complications from labor… an 18 year old dying of severe infection after self-inducing an abortion using 3 different methods…
Does one need to be a Catholic or a non-Catholic to feel horrified by real life cases like these in the Philippines?
One of the highest pregnancy rates in the ASEAN… 1 in 10 women aged 15-19 already mothers or pregnant with their first child… 1 in 5 unsafe abortions being done on teenage or young mothers… 1 in 3 HIV infected individuals in the country aged between 15-24… 1 in 5 maternal deaths are among adolescents… 62% of sexually transmitted infections also affecting adolescents…
What does one do with these confronting statistics?
What does one do about a train that’s gone off the rails?
Well, for starters, we need to tell young people how women become pregnant in the first place. We need to inform them that young girls’ bodies are not yet fully developed to cope with pregnancy and that the risk of maternal death is twice as likely for teenage girls than for women in their 20s. We need to apprise them of the consequences of irresponsible or risky sexual behavior. In short, we need to provide them the necessary information that can help them prevent, solve, and reduce problems related to their own reproductive health.
In 2006, the Department of Education attempted to trial Sex Education classes in Philippine schools but backed off and scrapped the program after encountering strong opposition from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
On June 2010, just a few days before President Aquino’s inauguration, the Dep Ed again attempted to launch a pilot program; again amidst much protestation from the CBCP and a lawsuit even thrown in by a parents group for good measure. Only a month after it started, the new Dep Ed Secretary, Bro. Armin Luistro, announced that the pilot testing was finished and that “he would create a group to review the teaching of sex education in public schools as part of a two-year general review of the basic education curriculum.”
The halftime score: CBCP -2, Dep Ed – 0
The CBCP’s objection to Sex Education classes in Philippine schools is premised on their belief that “it (sex education) should be left to parents”. In June 2010 Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, CBCP Media Office Director stressed that “parents, not schools, know best when their children are ready to understand sexuality.”
In a January 31, 2011 Pastoral Letter vs. the RH Bill, the Bishops reiterate this position in the following statement:
“We condemn compulsory sex education that would effectively let parents abdicate their primary role of educating their own children, especially in an area of life – sexuality – which is a sacred gift of God.”
But lo and behold! Just this Aug 25th, the CBCP NASSA (National Secretariat for Social Action- Justice and Peace) has announced in their website nassa.org.ph that “beginning SY 2013 – 2014, Theology of the Body will be integrated into Catholic schools’ curricula.”
According to the same website, Theology of the Body is based on a series of lectures given by Blessed John Paul II that focused on an integrated vision of man and his sexuality. Its teachings will include “the body and the sexual relationship itself (as) a symbol of God’s undying love for humanity.”
Further information on Theology of the Body may be found on theologyofthebody.com:
“Theology of the Body for Teens is a dynamic faith formation program for teens and pre-teens in Catholic schools, parish youth ministries, Religious Education, Confirmation, and home-school settings. Using a great mix of stories, real-life examples, activities, prayers, and relevant references to the culture, it goes beyond traditional chastity programs by connecting the two hottest topics on the planet–God and sex. “
“With Blessed Pope John Paul II’s compelling vision for love and life, and a language they understand, Theology of the Body for Teens answers the questions teens and pre-teens have about their own bodies, issues on sexual morality, and how they are uniquely created for greatness.”
So there you go, Sex Education- the Catholic edition, is coming soon to Catholic schools in the country in 2013.
The CBCP, it would seem, has finally realised that parents, in fact, might need a bit of help talking about sex with their own children.
So let’s not gloat or say I told you so, much as we may be tempted to; what matters is that Catholic School adolescents will now have someone talking to them about sexuality. That’s more than a little over 1.3 million high school students in the Philippines covered.
It may be a completely different approach from the Dep Ed modules; more theology than biology, that is. But it’s really better than nothing. The science curriculum can hopefully fill in the gaps such as basic education about the reproductive processes (also can be known henceforth as the biology of love) and puberty and sexual behaviour.
Round 3 therefore goes to both the CBCP and Dep Ed.
But the next one is all for Dep Ed’s taking, if it manages to play its cards right.
With most of the private schools now covered, it can focus on the over 5.5 million high school students enrolled in public schools. All it really needs to do now is implement their twice stalled Sex Education program for the public schools alongside the implementation of the Theology of Love classes in the Catholic schools beginning next year.
Having mustered the political will to roll out implementation of the more complicated K+12 program in 2012, there is no reason why Dep Ed should not be able apply the same zeal and commitment in relaunching the Sex Education Program in public schools in 2013. The public schools, after all, are under their full supervision.
How can one pass up on an opportunity like this?
Go Dep Ed.