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International News

Sex Education Booklet Spawns Controversy in Japan

September 16, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

A sex-education booklet for Japanese teenagers has triggered a dispute about whether teaching them contraceptive methods in detail is too radical as abortions among the young continue to rise. At the center of the controversy is the 32-page "Love and Body Book," compiled by the Mothers' and Children's Health and Welfare Association, a privately funded organization supervised by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Using diagrams of male and female anatomy to demonstrate what physical changes teenagers experience through adolescence, the booklet also explains contraceptive measures with matter-of-fact illustrations explaining how to use male and female condoms. The association had distributed 1.27 million copies of the booklet to municipal governments across the nation as of early May targeting students at junior high schools ages 12 to 15. It is part of the ministry's project to curb unwanted pregnancies, the spread of STDs and other sex-related problems among teenagers.

The number of abortions among girls under 20 years old reached 46,511 cases in 2001 to hit a record high for the sixth consecutive year, according to a health ministry survey. The number means nearly 13 girls in every 1,000 ages 15 to 19 underwent abortion operations, and eight in 1,000 ages 12 to 19 underwent the procedure. The number of pregnancies brought to term by teenagers less than 19 years old numbered 20,966 in 2001, according to a preliminary report by the health ministry, up 34 percent from 15,621 five years ago.

The controversy prompted some local governments to have second thoughts and stop handing the booklet out to children, while the association scrapped plans for further distribution and collected unwanted copies. Contraceptive methods are not in the ministry's list of items to teach junior high school students. In a bid to appease opponents, the association distributed inserts for the booklet to the local governments in August arguing, "the best way to avoid these troubles (disease infection and unwanted pregnancy), is to refrain from having sex."

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Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
09.09.02; Miwa Suzuki

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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