The following is my letter to the Straits Times Forum page and the Today newspaper. On 27 December 2011, Yahoo Singapore reported how the New Paper had reported that the Ministry of Education “has drafted a revised Sexuality Education Programme (SEP) to boost emphasis on abstinence over contraception.”
I read with great dismay that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has drafted a revised Sexuality Education Programme (SEP) to boost emphasis on abstinence over contraception. While claiming that the revision is to “ensure that it is updated and relevant” to students, I worry that MOE is in effect diluting the programme to make it more palatable for one religious denomination.
I speak as the only certified sexuality educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists as well as the only certified sexologist by American College of Sexologists in Singapore. I also run a sexuality and intimacy coaching company, Eros Coaching. I have worked with many individuals and couples who lament that their sexual lives would have been more positive if they had received comprehensive sexuality education growing up, accurate, fact-based, and non-judgmental information about sex and sexuality.
While it is true that abstinence is the only 100% fool-proof way to not get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI), how likely is it that our youths who are delaying marriage for further studies and career advancement will all only have sex and wait until marriage? At what point are they entitled to receive comprehensive sexuality education? And from where?
Contrary to what the public seems to believe, sexuality education is not just about the physical act of sex or safer sex practices. A big part of it constitutes relationship with self and others: love and commitment, marriage and partnership; the importance of self-esteem and communication skills in a relationship and the law relating to sexual behaviours and relationships as well as the range of religious and cultural views on sex, sexuality, and sexual diversity. Then there is also sexual development and reproduction, HIV/STIs and safer sex practices, as well as contraception and birth control. Hence comprehensive sex education vs abstinence-only, in effect, equips our future generation for a successful adult life.
There needs to be a clear differentiation between what we hold dear as our personal values and religious beliefs, which form our individual choices; and what the state ought to do right by our people. State-wide educational programs should not be dictated by which communities are the most vocal. Sexuality education does not promote promiscuous sexual behaviour, but rather teach its recipients how to make better sexual choices for themselves. We are doing our future generation a great disservice in not equipping them to navigate the complexities of an adult world.
Dr. Martha Lee