April 19, 2006
An informal survey by Inter Press Service (IPS) correspondents found sex education is spotty or absent in many Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba, where sex education is mandatory from preschool to university.
In Mexico, the laws state that sex education must be provided by the primary school curriculum. However, millions of children do not receive formal sex education until age 12 or 13. In March, a bill expanding sex education to four-year-olds passed the Senate but is opposed by the Catholic Church and conservatives.
In Venezuela, there was ample evidence that the law stipulating mandatory sex education from age eight and up is not being fulfilled. "I've seen for myself that kids reach the age of 14 or 15 with almost no knowledge whatsoever about these issues, and that helps explain the high rate of teenage pregnancy," said Ivonne Ponce, a health educator at the Pablo Vila junior secondary school in Caracas.
In Argentina, a 2002 law includes a requirement that the Ministry of Education devise and implement sex education programs in public school. But it does not specify the grade level, and the ministry seems to be taking its time, said Mabel Bianco, director of the Women's Studies and Research Foundation and former director of the country's National HIV/AIDS Program. Conservatives in general and the Catholic Church are also resistant to it, said Bianco. As a result, public schools do not provide sex education, and in some private schools that do there are no curricula standards, said IPS sources.
In Brazil, Ministry of Education regulations from the mid-1990s include sex education in primary and secondary school as a "cross-cutting theme" to be incorporated with other subjects. However, not all schools have adopted the measures, said Marcio Shiavo, president of the Brazilian Society for Studies on Human Sexuality.
In Chile, the ruling center-left coalition promotes information campaigns about sexuality, but allows each school to decide the issue of sex education.