Not enough, Minister Thwaites

Not enough, Minister Thwaites

Monday, October 29, 2012

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WHILE the practice of homosexuality is accepted and considered a basic human right in many other countries, Jamaican law and cultural norms disapprove.

The situation as it relates to Jamaica will perhaps change in time to come; but not yet, and not, we believe, for some time yet.

We should recall that this newspaper is on record — as is the current Prime Minister Mrs Portia Simpson Miller — as saying that the country needs to revisit the archaic, centuries-old buggery law.

However, in the meantime, Jamaican law and culturally accepted behaviour should be respected.

In that respect, we are unsurprised by the suggestion from Minister of Education Rev Ronald Thwaites that at least two persons involved in the drafting of the Health and Family Life Education Programme (HFLEP) curriculum, recently pulled from local high schools because of what can perhaps best be described as 'gay friendly' sexual content, "had a particular agenda and were able to embed it in the curriculum".

For, in our view, loaded questions for teenagers, which were reportedly included in the rejected curriculum, such as "have you ever had anal sex?" and "if you have never slept with a member of your own sex, is it possible that you might be gay if you tried it?" suggest an agenda of sorts. We say this particularly in light of the Jamaican context.

Also, this was clearly not a stand-alone case. The minister tells us that "it does appear that there were previous instances, and there were warnings, and it was a clear intention of some who have very clear predispositions regarding sexual conduct... who got away on this one".

A look back to 2007 will reveal that the then Minister of Education Mr Andrew Holness felt compelled to tell the country that a book on home economics was not endorsed by his ministry. This followed revelation of a section which claimed that "when two women or two men live together in a relationship as lesbians or gays, they may be considered a family".

We note comments from Mr Thwaites suggesting that the current brouhaha may have led to one of the two 'fingered' people exiting the ministry and another facing disciplinary action.

So what about those who approved publication of those "obnoxious" inserts in a high school text?

Mr Holness, now Opposition leader, who was education minister during the approval process in 2011, is reported by the Sunday Observer as saying that "persons at the executive and policy levels during his time at the helm of the ministry never saw the curriculum".

Yet the Sunday Observer report also tells us that there was an established approval process that should have involved the chief education officer, the permanent secretary and the minister himself.

So what went wrong? Could it be that the documents were presented to be read, but weren't? Or were the relevant officials at the 'executive' and 'policy levels' deliberately bypassed?

Either way, it suggests a gross dereliction of duty by crucial stakeholders.

It's not enough for Rev Thwaites to now only speak to what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence, useful though that is.

It can't be that only those who were responsible for the original draft bear the burden of blame. All those who messed up should be held to account.

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