Sex education is stigmatized, said Gabriela and Salinlahi, because the prevalent view on sex is that it is dirty, prohibited, and vulgar. “Thus, appropriate education regarding the subject is necessary to help children sort out information that impresses on them misguided connotations pertaining to sex.”
Salinlahi and Gabriela recognize that even at a young age, an appropriate sex education program will help children develop healthy and scientific concepts about their bodies and sexuality. They said this is an important foundation in protecting children from potential sexual abuse and exploitation.
“We have handled children who allowed perpetrators to touch their private parts under the guise of playing. We have even seen children innocently cross the boundaries of propriety in their games by exploring each other’s body and imitating what they see in the media of adults in compromising acts. The news is full of stories of young girls being molested or even raped by their playmates who are relatively older than them,” said Salinlahi.
Candy (not her real name), now 20 years old, was repeatedly abused by her playmate’s brother when she was six years old. She chose to keep silent about it for many years. Not even her parents know about the incident, she only told her best friend. She tries to move on with her life but the pain and anger she feels inside for letting it happen and for not being able to protect herself is still strong.
Asked by Bulatlat why she chose to keep mum about it, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe because I was so young back then and I did not even know if what he was doing was not right, because all I knew was that we were just playing,” said Candy.
A study by the Family Health International (FHI) and University of Cheikh Anta Diop, Institute of Environmental Sciences in Senegal concluded that sex education would also help prevent rape and sexual violence. “Values that instill respect for women while teaching that violence is never acceptable need to be emphasized,” the study read.
The United Nations also pointed out that in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Philippines is a signatory, obliges it to ensure adolescent girls and boys are given accurate and appropriate information on how to protect their health and practice sexually safe behaviors.
Salinlahi and Gabriela welcomed the Department of Education (Dep Ed)’s Memorandum No. 26, allowing the use of teaching modules on sex education. Gabriela, Salinlahi, and Gabriela Women’s Party said they are willing to participate in the consultation process and share their extensive experience in gender and sexuality education with children and parents.
“To ensure that the program is not implemented mechanically and all arguments are heard, the Dep Ed should conduct an intensive process of consultation with different stakeholders before full implementation of the program.”
Young moms Mendoza and Angelica said they have learned their lessons well. Although both profess their love for their child, they have come to realize that having a child entails a lot of responsibilities, especially if one is to raise her child alone.
Mendoza’s boyfriend just disappeared when he learned that she was pregnant. For 11 years, she raised her daughter alone, with the help of relatives and her mother. “I sold ice and ice candy to have some money to buy diapers,” Mendoza told Bulatlat.
Angelica’s parents buy the milk, diapers and other needs of her son while she is still studying. “I have no money to support the needs of my son. His father would not even give a peso for support,” she said. She also experienced physical abuse during the two years that she lived in with her child’s father.
After experiencing the ups and downs of being a parent at an early age, both of them recognize the need for sex education. They said they would be discussing about sex with their children when the proper time comes. “The word sex is just unpleasant to hear for some people but it is the word for it, and there is really a need to discuss it especially among teenagers,” Angelica said.
Candy sometimes still has nightmares. She said when she already has her own daughter, she would never allow her to play in her playmate’s house. “Maybe the first thing that I will teach her is her body parts and which among those body parts should not be touched by anybody,” Candy said.
For Salinlahi and Gabriela, “Children are never too young to know about their rights. And it is never too early for all institutions in society to work for the protection of children’s rights.” (Bulatlat.com)