SEX EDUCATION is an explosive isssue in Panama but for the third time since 2008, it will be up for discussion in the National Assembly with the presentation of a bill to adopt public policies to address a problem raising increasing concerns. over horror stats on child pregnancies and life threatening diseases.
This time, the legislative initiative before the Assembly’s Labor, Health and Social Development Commission comes from Doctor and PRD deputy Crispiano Adames.
The project is based on figures that show that the country has serious public health and social breakdown problems of affecting children and youth reports La Prensa.
Statistics from the Comptroller General show that 75% of children born each are outside of a stable relationship an one in five of those births are to a teenager , while 70% of the fathers are over 20 and among those most affected by HIV / AIDS, and the third leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 24 years is AIDS.
But the problem is expanding exponentially says La Prensa.
Current reports from the Ministry of Health (MoH) show that in April, 4,078 pregnant adolescents attended public health facilities. A month later, the number increased to 4,425 ie more than 347 teens registered in the system, an average of 11.5 a day.
According to Adames, who chairs the committee these arguments are sufficient to discuss the issue of sexuality in schools.
Adames believes that people who receive comprehensive sexuality education from an early age postpone the start of sexual activities.
Bills presented in 2008 by the then Health Minister Rosario Turner, and in 2011 by CD Deputy Marilyn Vallarino, were opposed by civil society groups and authorities. The most controversial articles were related to descendants, information on birth control and the right to privacy.
The director of the National Office for Children, Youth and Family, Idalia Martinez, said that the articles implied that primary school children could decide if they have sex, access contraceptives or abortion methods;, what she called "a door to free sex".
She said that the entity, the governing body of public policy for children and adolescents, was not consulted.
The president of the Panamanian Alliance for Life and Family, Juan Francisco de la Guardia, warned that the bill is an attack, on educational and parental rights and religious freedom of conscience.
He said that although the intention is to reduce pregnancies in children, these same practices have been unsuccessful in countries like the United States.
According to De la Guardia, to recognize the right of children to receive "advice" and "help" in sexual education and health behind the backs of their arents is a challenge to parental authority and the right of children to be protected by their parents .
Luis Soane, coordinator the Panamanian Coalition for Comprehensive Sexuality Education. argued that the age of initiation of sexual intercourse has declined in recent years. He cited theMoH statistics on HIV / AIDS MoH, indicating that so far this year 37 preteens 10 and 14 have been infected while in 2013 there were 42 . Meanwhile, there have been 234 cases so far this year in the 15 to 19 years age group and 249 in 2013.
Against this background, Soane advocated the establishment of comprehensive sex education strategies, in which young people are instructed within an ethical framework, without exclusion or discrimination.
The president of the Foundation for Gender Equity, Joice Araujo, said the law would contribute to preventing teenage pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases that currently threaten youth.
Araujo urged different organizations to read the bill and make an interpretation closer to reality.
The director of the Panamanian Association for Family Planning, Jane Cooke, recalled that the National Survey of Sexual and Reproductive Health 2009 revealed that 86% of men and 82% of women approved of sex education .
In 2011 the Gorgas Memorial Institute concluded in a study that 68% of adolescents between 15 and 19 were affected by the human papilloma virus, related to cancer.
In the comparative study State of World Mothers in 2005 Panama sat 22nd. and nine years later was anked 109 of 178 countries.
This study, prepared by The Save The Children oganization, working in more than 120 countries, indicates the places where mothers and children do better and those who face the greatest difficulties.
According to the report, Panama is at behind countries like Jamaica (91), Nicaragua (95), Dominican Republic (102), Paraguay (105) and Honduras (107).
Neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and Colombia occupy position 39 and 85 respectively.
The report shows that Panama's position relative to other countries has declined, because the health, education and political status of women has stagnated.
Vice Minister of Education, Maria Castro, said the institution is working on a counter proposal to the draft bill on sexual and reproductive health.
Castro said that the idea is to coordinate with counselors, teachers, and psycho-pedagogical counselors a strategy for better support from health authorities.
Meanwhile, the president of the National Confederation of Parent, Aixa Gomez, who oppose the law because it speaks of the rights of children rather than sex education.
"Giving pills and condoms is not sex education and leads to more debauchery. Where is our authority as parents? " she asked.
She stated that the current legislative initiative differs from that presented in 2011 only in the elimination of questions regarding sex and sexual orientation of adolescents.