Teen pregnancy and sex education
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) writes in response to a recent article titled 'Crisis: Kingston high school battles high teen pregnancy rates'. We use this opportunity to echo the sentiments of Clan Carthy principal, Hazel Cameron, that part of the issue exists in the fact that "many students lack proper sex education and, therefore, whilst engaging in sexual relationships, they do not adequately protect themselves".
As a society, we must realise that part of protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society depends heavily on equipping them with the skills necessary to manage their lives adequately and responsibly. Much of the existing narrative has made an attempt to turn a blind eye to the fact that our nation's children are having sex. For those who have difficulty in accepting the fact that children have sex, it is time that you relinquish your traditionalist notions and recognise what is at stake. We know that every time these issues arise, there is a cry to increase the age of consent. However, increasing it to 18 isn't justification for these misinformed opinions and it is not the answer to the problems that we have identified. The answer lies within education.
Much of the promulgated language surrounding sex education often ignores the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights in relation to adolescents and young people. Adolescents are particularly susceptible, and as such are entitled to the recognition of their rights. Any programme, policy or curriculum that is put into place must yield to these fundamental considerations and provide a space in which adolescents can competently develop their capacity to have full and informed control over their sexual development and responsibility.
As a society, we should aspire to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that precludes our youth from accessing sexual and reproductive health services, commodities and information. The designations are clear. Either we continue to ignore the issues and allow our children to stumble upon whatever forms of information, misinformation or outright exploitation that they will discover through the media, the Internet and their peers or we, instead, face up to the challenge and implement appropriate sex education which will adequately respond to their needs.
Policy & Advocacy Officer
Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network