Tuesday, June 21, 2011

402. Mariela Castro Praises Holland's Sex Education Model

Mariela Castro
By Radio Netherlands, June 17, 2011

Speaking at the 20th World Congress for Sexual Health held in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Ms Castro praised Holland’s sex education, including Love Matters, Radio Netherlands Worldwide’s website that informs young people on sex and sexual health in a clear and simple way.

It is a model that can and should be exported to other countries, says Ms Castro, who heads Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX). “It’s being developed in many countries now, in some with greater success than others, but in Holland it has been used continually, which is what we want to do in Cuba.”

Contraceptives and condoms
Dutch sex education promotes the use of contraceptives and condoms. Combined with sex education, which is offered at most schools, this model, United Nations figures show, has led to some of the world’s lowest rates in teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions. In addition, youths in Holland tend to have their first sexual encounters at an older age than teenagers in countries where sex is taboo.
Ms Castro hopes to study Holland’s sex education model at first hand in the near future as part of her efforts to introduce changes in Cuba. “Our talks with our health ministry are progressing, but things with the education ministry are slower.”

Raúl Castro: father and confidant

Ms Castro hints that Cuba’s Communist Party may soon be ready to recognise gay and lesbian rights, even though her father has cautioned her that the time may not yet be ripe.
“I’ll be frank with you. My father, with all his experience in outlining strategies, and getting them implemented, has told me one first has to create the right conditions—and Cuban society lacks them in many areas. When the Revolution declared itself socialist after the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, people took up arms to defend it, hardly knowing what socialism was exactly. It seems a contradiction, but what I’m trying to say it that in this macho culture we’ve made a lot of progress regarding women’s rights. So I’d tell my father: why don’t we do the same thing with these issues? But he’d say: look, some things have such deeps roots in our culture, that you’ll face a lot of resistance unless you sort out some other things first. That’s why it’s necessary to wait until the party conference in January and make progress informing the population with the help of the media. That way we’ll get things ready in order to get a good result.”

Cuba’s media
Sex education, experts say, has three pillars: home, school and the media. Officially instituted in 1976, in practice Cuba’s sex education wasn’t introduced until 1996. It is still suffering from a number of contradictions, Ms Castro warns.

“Cuban families trust a lot what children are told at school,” she says. “We began marking days against homophobia in 2008, and now people are beginning to tell their children. They didn’t in the past, thinking we were only telling them how to avoid pregnancies, or telling them about infections and biological issues. But all that is proving complicated because the national media are not helping.”

However, at the last Communist Party Congress, held in April, President Raúl Castro launched a harsh attack on Cuba’s media. Thanks to that, Ms Castro believes, the media reported on the latest day against homophobia.

As the head of CENESEX, Ms Castro has made the fight against homophobia in Cuba a personal struggle, giving countless talks and interviews. “Prejudices are still deeply rooted, in our culture and in our history as a nation. Finding new elements that can change the reality of such views is very hard. What I try to do is to dismantle prejudices and offer elements that allow another perspective on the sexual reality of human beings. Making progress in these elements, especially in those of gender and equal women’s rights, has helped us make progress in respecting sexual diversity and gender identity.”

High abortion rates
One of Cuba’s main problems is the high rate of unwanted teenage pregnancies. “I defend a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her body, and if women were revanchist and vindictive, they should propose to introduce laws that force men to undergo a vasectomy after they turn 50, so they won’t have children left and right when they’re too old, which is extremely irresponsible. An abortion is a matter between a man and a woman, and men should be taught to be responsible.”

Cuba has no abortion law but since 1965 abortions have been offered as a free public health care service, which led to a significant drop in the number of deaths resulting from clandestine abortions.

A key role in institutionalising abortion and promoting women’s rights was played by the former president of the Federation of Cuban Women, the late Vilma Espín—Ms Castro’s mother.

No comments: