MANILA — A women’s health and rights advocacy group has been pushing for a comprehensive sex education to combat the prevalence of teen pregnancy and HIV among Filipino adolescents.
“We observed that our education on sex is more focused on contraceptive and not as a life perspective. We believe that such education had to combat the taboo on sexuality discussions, and rather than bringing about information but also a change in attitudes,” Junice Lirza Melgar, co-founder and executive director of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health said during a forum on Wednesday in Mandaluyong City.
Likhaan works on women’s health and reproductive rights with the core programs of community women’s organizing, primary women’s clinic, and research-based policy advocacy.
Melgar said teachers, who will be channels of sexuality education, must have a normative change so they can effectively teach life skills to adolescents.
She added that their group proposes to the government a spiral progression of sexuality education from Kinder to Grade 12.
“We think this will respond to the high rates of pregnancy and rates of HIV in adolescents. This is the future of sexuality standards which worked in countries like America in dealing with teenage pregnancy, there should be knowledge, component values and basic life skills,” she said.
Citing that adolescents are able to get vicarious information on sex from the Internet, peers and other people, Melgar said Filipino learners must have access to authoritative information about sex and reproductive health.
“This part of having the life skills, life skill to communicate their own boundaries, their own self-concepts and to negotiate that using their own language to be able to refuse, even in Grade 1, learning to refuse a lewd touch, which must be graduated from Grade 1 to 12,” she said.
Melgar added that it is important that Filipino learners must know about their sexual body parts as early as Grade 1 without feeling shame or guilt.
“They should know sex is something natural that their parents do. That it’s something adults do, adults who can manage the consequence of sexual behavior. They should also have values of self-respect, respect for others, regardless of who they are, regardless of their bodies and sexual behavior, non-judgmentalism and a positive attitude towards sexuality,” she said.
Melgar lauded the Department of Education (DepEd) under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration for its openness to their proposal in line with sexuality education improvement.
“The term condom, we propose mentioned in Grade 6 and the more intricate aspects of contraceptives in Grades 6 to 9. Unlike the previous administration, we cannot even mention the word ‘condom’ and ‘sex’. This administration’s DepEd has actually accepted those standards which are painstakingly developing the curriculum to implement that,” she said.
While DepEd is responsible for the implementation of comprehensive and proper sexuality education, Melgar urged parents and other professionals in the health and education industry to teach young people about reproductive health and rights.
“We have a role to play to make sure that the standards and the curiculum based on it will become a reality in the Philippines,” she said. (Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)