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Sex Education row grows

Ministry seeks advice from attorney general on JFJ manuals

Thursday, June 19, 2014    

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YOUTH and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna yesterday sought advice from Attorney General Patrick Atkinson on what legal recourse can be sought by her ministry against human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) for manuals used in its sex education programme that targeted wards of six privately operated children's homes.

The manuals, used in JFJ's 'Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities and Life Skills' programme, were found to include age-inappropriate oral, anal and vaginal penetration lessons under the guise of 'tolerance'.

In a press release yesterday, Hanna said she had also referred the manuals used by the rights group in its unauthorised sexual education programme to the attention of Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison.

"Minister Hanna is committed to doing all within her power to ensure there is never a recurrence of this breach of the protection of the children in state care from inappropriate content as well as this betrayal of the trust of the children by those employed to look after their best interests," the ministry said.

Hanna, at the same time, said she has given strict instructions to the Child Development Agency (CDA) to immediately sharpen its monitoring functions.

Hanna has come under fire from several quarters, including Opposition Spokesman Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, for being in the dark about the contents of the manuals.

Efforts to reach the minister yesterday for additional comments on the controversial issue were unsuccessful. However, a ministry official said she was not prepared to offer any more interviews until she was in receipt of the report from the CDA.

Some civil society groups have described JFJ's move as an attempt by gay activists to sneak the tenets of their lifestyle into the curriculum of the manuals in order to penetrate the vulnerable minds of the children.

The JFJ implemented the programme, in partnership with Jamaica Family Planning Association (FAMPLAN), which it said was unaware of the inclusion of the controversial material.

FAMPLAN, in a release, expressed its regret at the revelation that wards of the state were exposed to age-inappropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights information.

"This situation has understandably caused much concern in our society because of the firm endorsement of Christian family values. FAMPLAN Jamaica believes that the national development and strategic agenda must reflect the values of the Jamaican people and the traditions that they embrace. Further, we believe that all supportive stakeholders should execute their work with full respect for those values," a release from the association stated.

Also, the National Family Planning Board has distanced itself from the manual as well as FAMPLAN.

"The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) unequivocally and categorically states that our organisation is not associated in any way with a sexuality programme reportedly being piloted by Jamaicans For Justice in some of the country's children's homes. The NFPB was not involved in the development of this curriculum, neither was our organisation consulted in the process. In fact, the issue came to our attention only through media reports," a release from the board said.

The infiltration of the content of the manual is reportedly the work of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC) — 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.

The CVCC was the object of the anger of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, which described the move by JFJ and the coalition as evidently targeting children to indoctrinate them about behaviour that are both harmful to the individual and society, and are incapable of promoting healthy lifestyles.

The CVCC has called a press conference, to be held today at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kingston, to outline its role in the sex education programme.

— Karyl Walker

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