THE Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) is among a number of faith-based organisations that have expressed grave concern over the controversial Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum, and has called for a full disclosure of the source of its contents.
The group along with the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, Faith Temple Gospel Assembly, the Issachar Foundation, Christian Brethren Assemblies, Jamaica Lawyers Christian Fellowship, Christian Life Fellowship, Bethany Fellowship, Swallowfield Chapel, and Mona Heights Chapel have expressed their displeasure with the curriculum.
The JCHS comprises individuals and institutions that act as watchdogs for the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health of the society.
"Children must be taught in an age-appropriate manner, the well-documented medical, emotional, psychological, economic, and moral consequences of sexual activity," said Dr Wayne West, a founding member of the coalition.
The HFLE curriculum was introduced in secondary schools by the education ministry's Health and Family Life Education Unit in 2011. But the curriculum was recently withdrawn by Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites after complaints that aspects of the manual was inappropriate for children given the graphic sexual questions being asked of them.
"The questions posed to 11 and 12-year-olds... reveal particular value-based assumptions about sexuality that are incompatible with Jamaican laws and the values of the majority of Jamaicans," the groups said.
The church groups commended the education minister for the stance taken in withdrawing the manual, and has agreed with him that "respect for all people is an entirely different thing from conditioning the minds of our young people to accept alternative lifestyles as normative".
Vice-President of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals Rev Peter Garth said the groups will continue to take a stance for a healthy society in keeping with their mandate.
"We don't feel that this is the way to go, especially in light of what is happening in Jamaica today. There is need for tightening of our laws, rather than trying to get rid of them," he told the Jamaica Observer.
The faith-based organisations called upon Jamaicans to consider who benefits when 11-year-olds are asked to think about anal sex, drunkenness and multiple partners.
"It must be made clear to the drafting and approval committees that Jamaica, whilst respecting all persons, is not under obligation to accept all sexual behaviours as normative," the groups said.
Calls were also made for parents to be more vigilant in scrutinising the materials their children are exposed to and for a revision to be done of the current curriculum so that it will promote a philosophy of zero-tolerance for all types of sexual activities for children among other things.