Ronald Thwaites: Don't be hostages to homophobia
Not long ago, I was introduced to a 21-year-old grandmother in the area of Kingston which I represent. Although hers is an extreme case, instances of intergenerational, early teen pregnancy are common.
The age of sexual initiation in Jamaica is well below the age of consent.
While serving in the Ministry of Education, I came across a high school where becoming a mother or father between grades nine and 10 was almost a rite of passage.
This reality should provide the background for consideration of the content of sex education offered in our schools.
Instead, local family-life crusaders and many churches are focusing on the threat of international funding agencies infusing gay culture among our students.
If we are not thoughtful, we could end up increasing homophobia among young people, multiplying the uncertainty and anguish of the tens of thousands of children with homosexual tendencies and largely missing the point of destructive heterosexual behaviour that is wrecking family life and compromising wholesome educational outcomes.
There is no doubt that several of the institutions which the Ministry of Education continues to rely upon for technical and financial assistance subscribe to an agenda that legitimises a gay lifestyle. In doing so, they are following the policies of those countries of North America and Europe which provide their funding and policy direction.
Despite their considerable influence, they can't force us to expose our children to material that runs counter to our culture and elements of our albeit weakened Judaeo-Christian heritage. For now, they back off easily when, as in 2013, objection was taken to those elements of the internationally influenced Health and Family Life Curriculum, which would have groomed students to accept homosexual lifestyles as normative.
In the future, I expect the pressure to intensify. It will be like the death-penalty issue. If you want their aid, you will have to accept their message.
ASKING TOO MUCH
So, beyond watchfulness, it is important that we, as a nation, should clarify our own values and attitudes regarding standards of sexual behaviour to propose to our youngsters.
Many elements of our culture promote a 'bungle a gyal' standard for young boys. The girls looked at me incredulously at a school function recently when I suggested to them that premature sex is the thief of true love.
The ideals of respect, modesty, postponement of gratification, faithfulness, commitment and devotion to parenting - these are some of the values that we really must emphasise in our schools.
Since family, Church, media and community no longer do so effectively, the school has become the major institution for positive socialisation in Jamaica. But is it asking too much? Are leaders and teachers in a position to model convincingly the sexual practices and family lives we want students to emulate?
So when the review of the Family Life curriculum is carried out by the Ministry of Education, I doubt they will find any gay life-promoting material. We need to stop being hostage to homophobia in our schools and instead, be promoters of healthy, respectful and happy relationships and family lives.
- Ronald Thwaites is an attorney-at-law and opposition spokesman on education. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.