An informal survey by IPS correspondents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela shows that sex education is patchy or nonexistent in the region, with the exception of Cuba. Although exact numbers are hard to find, dozens of women die of complications arising from the denial of medical procedures, maternal suicides, and illegal abortions. According to UNFPA, between 35 and 52 percent of teen pregnancies in the region every year are unplanned, a situation that could be largely prevented with sex education. The Chilean authorities have been quick to act in establishing rules against the discrimination of pregnant teens and intervening on behalf of gay and lesbian students. They respect these laws or norms without question and without considering that we live in a new time, with a new society, mentality, and lifestyle.
Although three quarters of the population is nominally Catholic, only 20 percent of Argentines are actively practicing. Much of the progress is determined by the vastly divergent power of the Catholic Church across the continent. In Argentina, the move was surprisingly free of controversy, especially compared to the polemics surrounding the legalization of divorce in The conclusion reached by Sara, based on a television ad not designed with children in mind, is an illustration of the lack of adequate information about sex faced by millions of children in Latin America. Nevertheless, the country is still a long way from reaching the goals it set in its National Program of Sexual Health and Procreation. Since children under five are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse, it is advisable to begin providing sex education starting in preschool, the administrator of educational services in the federal district of the Mexican capital, Sylvia Ortega, told IPS. As a result, sex education is still not provided in Argentine public schools. The problems that result from not speaking clearly and openly to children and teenagers about sex are abundantly apparent, say experts. Peer education, she points out, continues to be the main source of information for many. Nevertheless, some studies have shown that young people in Cuba are becoming sexually active at increasingly younger ages, such as 12 and In Mexico, as in much of the region, the laws stipulate that sex education must be included in the primary school curriculum. An informal survey by IPS correspondents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela shows that sex education is patchy or nonexistent in the region, with the exception of Cuba. If the Catholic Church wants to appeal to the younger generation of Latinos, it will have to rethink its stance on sexual health and reproductive rights. The Chilean authorities have been quick to act in establishing rules against the discrimination of pregnant teens and intervening on behalf of gay and lesbian students. Since the law was passed in , mothers and doctors alike risk imprisonment if they are suspected of inducing or performing abortions. Although exact numbers are hard to find, dozens of women die of complications arising from the denial of medical procedures, maternal suicides, and illegal abortions. Yet, religion and sexual and reproductive health need not be at odds. Among the leather and lace that stop traffic along the streets of the South American capital, a topless young woman with pierced nipples and tattoos marches alongside an 8-year-old girl accompanied by her mother and grandmother. Quintana says young people who seek contraception sometimes find their requests denied by health workers acting out of their own moral convictions. The relationship between church and state was not always as cozy as it is today, says veteran Nicaraguan journalist Tomas Stargardter. Despite the weather, many demonstrators flaunt their femininity in miniskirts and knee-high boots, their bare skin exposed to the chilly winter drizzle. In Brazil, sex education is mandatory in primary and secondary school, in accordance with the national curriculum standards established by the Ministry of Education in the mids. According to UNFPA, between 35 and 52 percent of teen pregnancies in the region every year are unplanned, a situation that could be largely prevented with sex education. Hundreds of women flooded the streets of Managua on September 28—the date designated since as the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America. A bill that would expand sex education to four-year-olds at the preschool level made it through the Mexican Senate in March, awakening the ire of the Catholic Church and conservative sectors of society.
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