ST May 20, 2009Sigh .....
Useful programme except for condom excerpt
I RECENTLY came to know that upper secondary and junior college students go through an educational programme on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids), called Breaking Down Barriers, by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
Besides providing accurate facts about STIs, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Aids, the programme also imparts useful skills to students, such as decision-making and the right places to obtain reliable information, as well as assertiveness and strategies on how not to succumb to persuasion.
I was truly heartened to learn that the students were taught that the best way to avoid STIs and Aids is to avoid casual sex, sex with multiple partners and unprotected sex, and to stay faithful to a partner within the context of marriage.
However, the students were subsequently taught how to use a condom.
While I understand HPB's good intention to curb the rising incidence of STIs among the young, I wish to express my concerns as a parent that students are being taught how to use condoms in school.
- It gives a mixed and confusing message. Is it not better to encourage students to avoid pre-marital sex altogether, since the programme also teaches that the use of condom is not 100 per cent safe?
- Students are not likely to heed or remember to practise safe sex just because they have attended a lesson on condom use.
- Even if they do use a condom, they are not likely - in the heat of the moment - to remember or follow the steps to use a condom correctly.
I truly appreciate the HPB's efforts for creating such a programme and hope that it will review and consider whether it is really necessary or useful to teach students how to use a condom.
This confuses, contradicts and compromises the good advice to avoid pre-marital sex as the only foolproof protection against STIs and Aids.
Steven assumes that if you tell students not to have sex, then they will all just obediently decide not to have sex. Of course this is nonsense. Yes, some students will abstain. But some other students are going to have sex, even if you give them all the advice in the world about the merits of abstinence.
So the question is - for all thise students who are going to be sexually active, should we or should we not provide them with the necessary information to save them from diseases like AIDS etc? To me, the answer is clear.
However, Steven would probably say, "If you don't tell them about condoms, then it is more likely that they will abstain. If you do tell them about condoms, then it is more likely that they WILL get curious and decide to have sex."
This kind of argument is highly unpersuasive to me. Its basic assumptions are that:
(1) young people who have sex, have sex because they have been unnecessarily exposed to the idea of having sex (eg through TV or the Internet or educational talks on condom usage); and
(2) we should therefore avoid, as far as possible, talking to young people about sex.
In my opinion, this is pretty much nonsense. Young people do not have sex just because they watch TV or attend a talk on condom usage. The real reason why young people have sex is that they have sexual desires. (Oh, by the way, the same applies to the rest of the animal kingdom).
Whether TV or the Internet or sex education programmes exist or not, young people are going to have sexual desires and therefore young people will have sex. And that's the plain and simple story of the human race. So once again, the question is - in the era of AIDS, should we educate young people about condoms or not? To me, the answer is a no-brainer.
As a side note, you can easily see why Aware's sex education programme attracted flak from certain quarters. Stephen isn't alone in his thinking - strangely enough, there are many other people who also believe that if you just don't talk to students about condoms, then they won't have sex. And the natural extension of their "logic" is that if you don't talk to people about homosexuality, then they just won't be gay.
In my opinion, that kind of reasoning is so very mistaken. I just wonder what will happen next. Hang on - Steven's letter refers to a sex education programmme organised for junior college students. Doesn't Stephen know that straight after JC, all the boys go off to the army? Then they get sent to Thailand or Taiwan for training. And on their R&R weekends, the Singapore Armed Forces will be handing out free condoms to them (right after the SAF doctor does the usual demonstration with the yellow banana).
I am glad that the SAF does that. But is Steven going to file a complaint here as well?