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Coalition stays clear of offensive sex manual

Friday, June 20, 2014    

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EXECUTIVE Director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC) Dr Carolyn Gomes yesterday failed to address accusations that the coalition was behind the insertion of offensive sexual material in a manual used in six privately owned children's homes.

The CVCC had called a press conference at the Hotel Four Seasons in Kingston to respond to recent media reports regarding its role and objectives. But when asked about the damaging content during the question and answer session, Gomes skirted around the issue.

"This is a CVCC press conference, not a JFJ (Jamaicans For Justice) press conference and the mischaracterisation and the decision for the press conference surfaced long before there was any controversy with JFJ," Gomes said.

However, CVCC Financial and Programmes Manager Ivan Cruikshank said that Jamaican children were initiated in sexual activities from as young as age 10 and the move was geared at fostering responsible attitudes in youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in residential facilities with the aim of reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS.

"One-third of the children in Jamaica are sexually initiated at age 10 and young females, aged 15-19 years, are four times more likely to be infected with HIV. Given these unnerving statistics, we aim to engage with at-risk youth about the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and lifestyle choices, while encouraging safe self-care practices," he said.

Cruikshank blamed the media for describing the coalition -- a group which provides services to homosexuals, sex workers, people who use drugs, orphans, and other children made vulnerable by HIV, migrant populations and ex-prisoners -- as a gay lobby group.

"CVCC is not a gay lobby group. CVCC is a human rights and public health organisation committed to serving the most vulnerable populations and eradicating HIV in the Caribbean," he said as he asked the media to frame its narrative on gay rights issues in a better manner.

On Wednesday, JFJ distanced itself from the offensive content in the manual and apologised for not being vigilant enough in perusing the content which was used in its 'Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsi-bilities and Life Skills' programme.

The Jamaica Family Planning Association also distanced itself from the content and said it was not consulted about the insertion of the offensive material.

Yesterday, Gomes and another director, Susan Evans, resigned from JFJ in the wake of the backlash over the content.

Youth Minister Lisa Hanna has since sought legal advice from the Attorney General's Office and the Office Children's Advocate on what recourse can be sought against the JFJ for the use of the manual.

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