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Affection and Sexuality (JOCAS) sexual education program

ChilNet press extracts
September 1996

Bishop of Talca supports sex ed program, but criticism on the right continues

ChilNet extract from La Epoca
16 September 1996

Bishop of Talca Carlos Gonzalez this weekend came out in support of the government's controversial sex education pilot program. Gonzalez said the program, Conversational Sessions About Affection And Sexuality (JOCAS), is important, and that government should collaborate with parents in sexual education. Gonzalez is the only Catholic Church official to support the program thus far.

The government says the JOCAS program is simply a means of facilitating the discussion of sexual issues among parents, professors and high school students. The goal is to prevent some of the 40,000 annual teenage pregnancies, an estimated 150,000 abortions and the increasing spread of AIDS, officials say. The program is a collaborative effort between the ministries of Education and Health, the National Women's Service and the National Youth Institute, among others.

Valparaiso Bishop Jorge Medina Estevez, the center-right Renovacion Nacional (RN) party and the Federation of Private Educational Institutions (FIDE) have been the program's most vocal critics.

RN President Andres Allamand said Saturday parents, and not the state, should decide what students should be taught. He said the Ministry of Education should prepare alternative sexual education programs.

The president of FIDE, Marist Brother Aldo Passalacqua, said Sunday the program should be halted and reviewed in order to solve the serious lack of consensus about the program in society. Passalacqua said the existing program is not tolerable because, among other things, it discusses various positions for having sex.

Minister of Education Sergio Molina and other program defenders say an erroneous report by El Mercurio led to much of the mistaken criticism now in the air. Molina says the El Mercurio report has given an unbalanced view of the program, and that the newspaper staged a photograph of two students at one of the program schools holding condoms, as if to suggest the youths had received them through JOCAS. The two students say the photographer handed them the condoms before taking the picture. El Mercurio denies the charge.

Molina said that between establishing a state policy on sexuality, doing nothing and providing a space for youths to voice their doubts and concerns about sexuality with the guidance of educators and parents, the government chose the latter. Putting an end to the program, he said, would constitute "a serious step backwards in our society."

In related news, Bishop of Valparaiso Jorge Medina Estevez received a grand send-off Sunday as he heads to the Vatican to assume the position of Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Cult and Discipline of the Sacraments.

Around 15,000 people participated in the mass given by Medina, including Interior Minister Carlos Figueroa. In his homily, Medina warned about innovations in Chilean society in family and sexual matters that go against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Regarding the sexual education controversy, Medina said, "It's not just a question of avoiding the negative consequences of a disordered sex life. It's a question of emancipating our bodies, which is a part of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit." *

Frei supports JOCAS sex-ed program. Calls policy of avoidance "Immoral"

La Epoca
26 September1996

President Eduardo Frei offered his unequivocal support Tuesday to the Ministry of Education's "Conversational Sessions about Affection and Sexuality" (JOCAS) sexual education program, which has come under heavy fire from religious leaders and opposition parties.

JOCAS is a voluntary, three-stage program for high schools. The first stage is a three day session during which youths express their concerns about sexuality. In the second part, experts come in to provide answers and perform demonstrations on the use of condoms, for example. Finally, parents and students meet together to discuss the issues and engage in educational activities.

The Ministry of Education has defended the program as a forum for students and parents and a means of preventing the country's 40,000 annual teenage pregnancies, some 140,000 abortions and the rising incidence of AIDS.

Critics, however, accuse the program of promoting immorality by discussing sexuality in clinical rather than moral terms and subverting parental rights.

The president touched on the issue at a meeting with a group of youths in the community of Macul. He implicitly accused the critics of the program of being out-of-touch and "hypocritical," and defended the state's obligation to work with parents in the sexual education effort. "I cannot believe that morality can be imposed without dialogue and information. It is a small-minded person who believes we protect our youth through ignorance and control," he said.

Recalling teenage pregnancy and abortion statistics, he said, "Wouldn't it be easier for the government not to do anything about it? Frankly, I believe that to opt for the policy of hiding our heads in the sand is immoral." Frei further said that the greatest poverty in Chile is found in households run by single mothers.

The president's support was seen by many as a flip-flop on the position demonstrated last week by Education Minister Sergio Molina, who in the face of criticism said the program would be reviewed and modified.

Frei's statements provoked a strong reaction from the Church. Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago Monsignor Cristian Caro said the Church does not close its eyes to the reality of the nation's youth, but nor does it want them receiving "fallacious and immoral" information about "safe sex." He said sexual activity cannot be separated from greater values such as love, the respect for and dignity of the human body, fidelity and the importance of raising a family. He asked whether government officials, knowing the content of the program, would expose their own children to it.

Frei, however, also emphasized that sexual education must encourage youths to reflect on sexuality in more then biological terms. Students should also develop perspectives about respecting one's partner and valuing the moral aspect of sexuality and the responsibility of procreation, he said.

Bishop Caro said Chile is being manipulated by powerful political forces, namely the World Health Organization, the United States and other industrialized nations: "...(T)hey want to promote the sale of contraceptives... (so they) send their leftover condoms and birth control. There is a powerful economic and political campaign to diminish the family in our countries, because the First World countries, which no longer have children, see that our countries, which have more children, keep growing, and they are going to lose their political hegemony." *

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