Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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"State sponsored abstinence abuse!"

Shane Collens • 23 June 2005 • 446 words
Published in Trinidad Express "Letter of the Day", Trinidad Guardian and Newsday

What does child abuse and an abstinence-only club have in common? A blatant disregard for human rights! Let me explain.

The purpose of education is to provide information. Withholding and/or distorting information is not education. The present administration’s solutions to meet the challenges of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI) are based on the same unenlightened thinking as their “final solution” for occupants of Death Row. The hanging solution is to take an “I’m being strong” stance to appeal to the popular baying for blood. The abstinence solution is “I’m being righteous” to appeal to the religious fundamentalists. In both cases they are desperate reactions and an admission of failure to what should have been in place over the last 49 years. Is this leadership?

No one can argue that abstinence is a solution as PART of a programme. But an incomplete programme is tantamount to signing a death warrant. Abstinence-only assumes that a pledger is going to keep the pledge. It also assumes that the pledge was made freely in the first place, without parental and institutional pressure. Finally, once the pledge is broken, as it will be, is the pledger armed with information on alternative methods to protect themselves in the course of their sexual activity?

In their zeal, the present administration has mandated an authority to conduct abstinence-only clubs in schools. By their own admission this authority is not mandated to disseminate information normally associated with sex education - i.e. the correct use of condoms for one. Which brings the question, if you are handling education responsibly, who is handling the missing information? Are there not other organisations with a wealth and history of research, internationally funded before Bush, who are more than capable of conducting sex education programmes?

Here comes the good bit. In order for a programme to be effective it must be monitored. There are no mechanisms in place to do that here. Even so, the local authority would be aware of the statistics of the American programme, from whence they get their inspiration, and its 88 percent failure rate amongst pledgers. Oh, and guess what, these unfortunate ‘victims’ find themselves with no information for protection in their new-found sexual activity.

Now the punch line. In their zeal for populist approval, the authorities have blatantly disregarded the right of young people to information, free of political and religious interference, and have put them clearly in harm's way. At first I thought this was child abuse, but on reflection the phrase “criminal negligence” comes to mind.

Shane Collens, Parent

See: TT Humanist : Views : Sexuality : Global Extracts

See: TT Humanist Statement on "Enlightened Education"



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