by: Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

I am alarmed that contraception may have to give some way to abstinence in a revised version of a Sexuality Education Programme (SEP) of the Ministry of Education and that Catholic schools should find fewer issues with it. Abstinence is the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church for centuries and has not produced satisfactory results even for the Catholic community. It never succeeded to impress other religious communities to endorse abstinence only in sexuality education.

UNESCO studies show that traditional sexuality education programmes show little evidence that risky behaviour, incidence of sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancies and abortions were reduced in youths in abstinence only sexuality education.

There is a rising trend in recent years of sexual activity among. It calls for clear, informed and comprehensive education based on respect and human rights. Conservative religious communities in their abstinence only sexuality education programmes have not been able to arrest the alarming trend of sexual activity and have been largely ignored by the youths. We cannot afford to revert to put more focus on abstinence and ought to pursue more innovative and comprehensive sexuality education.

As the convenor of Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids, I am personally concerned also with the increasing rise of the infection rate among young people. Contraception is absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the deadly virus and at the present moment there is no cure for Aids. Of course abstinence is the ideal but unrealistic, unreachable and unwise. Abstinence if you can but not at the expense of contraception. In spite of Catholic and conservative teaching, faithful followers of different religions including Catholics cannot dismiss contraception. Abstinence is an ideal which is clearly unattainable.

The use of contraceptive devices have proven to reduce the rate of HIV infections dramatically throughout the world. Responsible governments are either officially promoting the use of condoms and encouraging and supporting non-government agencies including faith based communities to provide sexuality education that features the importance of contraception. The teaching of abstinence alone is not the practical answer and this is a historical lesson that we have learnt. Information about contraception is the realistic approaach to prevent the rise of sexually transmitted diseases.

The revision by MOE of sexuality education in our educational institutions should not regress to past practices but proceed forward through contraception to a more healthy future for all regardless of religious affiliation and cultural conditions.

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao is the Convenor of Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids. The article was first published on his Facebook. TOC thanks Rev Dr Yap for allowing us to reproduce this article here.

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