Sex education will become part of regular high school lessons in the Philippines for the first time, the government said Tuesday, in a move that drew the immediate ire of the country’s powerful Catholic church.
Church ire in Philippines over sex education
Lessons on sex are to be included in regular science and health studies in government-run upper schools, Education Secretary Mona Valisno said, adding that officials would study whether such lessons were also appropriate for younger pupils.
"They should know these things, about the body and how to protect it instead of learning about it on the Internet," Valisno said.
Church leaders in the devoutly Catholic country immediately hit back at the plan, saying the state had no business to be talking to youngsters about sex.
"The students should not be taught … sexuality based on the physical aspect but as a gift from God," said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, a spokesman for the country’s Catholic bishops, adding that sex should be taught by parents.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz said that instead of sex, boys should be taught how to respect girls and women while girls should be taught self defence and how to avoid becoming victims of sexual abuse.
Valisno said her department was willing to discuss the matter with the Catholic church, which counts over 80 percent of the population as followers.
The issue is the latest point of conflict between the government and the church and follows a heated debate over condoms.
Earlier this year, church leaders called for the sacking of the health secretary after she launched a campaign to hand out free condoms on Valentine’s Day as part of the battle against HIV and AIDS.