Wednesday, July 14, 2010

about sexuality education

All the brouhaha about sex education may be caused by the fact that English is not our first language. If we translate "sex" to Tagalog or any Filipino language, it would refer to coitus or the sex act. For one, how would you translate sex education to Tagalog? For most native English speakers, the word sex has a broader meaning and they have long used it in academic discourse. However, the UNESCO's framework on sex education uses the term "sexuality education." I think that's a more appropriate term. The material has been around for sometime and interestingly its curriculum is much broader than sex. It covers friendships, courtship, family relationships, physiology, gender issues and the like. DepEd should have referred to it before coming out with the mislabeled sex education. It could have been called gender, family and sexuality education. I also hope DepEd is not copying everything from that UNESCO's curriculum. It is very western in its assumptions. It should be situated into our culture and context.

A while ago, I was talking to Julie, a laundry woman with seven children. She said that she needed some money to have their flooring repaired. It sagged due to the recent typhoon. She is slaving herself to death just to provide for the basic needs of her children. Her husband was recently hit by a jeepney while negotiating the highway driving his padyak which he uses for collecting junk materials. During summer Julie sends her kids to take in summer jobs so that they would have money to buy for their enrollment needs. Now she is worrying about the future of her eldest daughter who is supposed to enter college next school year. She was asking if there is a job for her that would support her college education. Earlier, she was relating how her son would go to school without enough money to buy for food. For lunch, he would buy a cup of rice and ask for a little sabaw as his ulam. Many times he would walk to school so he can use his meager allowance for a more urgent need.

I asked Julie if she ever said sorry to her kids for not providing them their needs. She said she couldn't do it but she said that she is definitely repentant (nagsisisi) that she bore so many children that she cannot adequately support. Seeing the daily saga of Julie and millions of families like hers makes me wonder why there is such a strong resistance towards sex education. It is like depriving children of information that can save their own bodies and from having a future like Julie's.

The UNESCO's document harps on the danger of AIDS and STDs as the main reason for sexuality education. Tho such diseases are also on the rise in the Philippines, I think the more pressing reason for sexuality education is to develop responsible parenting. Anyway, only a small percentage of the youth becomes vulnerable high risk sexual behavior. Majority would become normal parents.

I think we all should open our eyes to increasingly difficult lives of large families around us. We should not just say they live in poverty but we should be aware how poverty is translated in their daily lives, specifically in ways that affect their health and the education of their children. I am sure that most of such parents, like Julie, would also say that how they wish they planned their families well. That should make institutions like churches, schools, media and others apologize or at least feel sorry for not doing their job in enabling young people acquire responsible parenting skills. This would be a good starting point for a program like family/gender/sexuality education.