Guatemala: Sex Education, Family Planning Finally Available
December 15, 2009
After surmounting a number of legal challenges, a 2005 law guaranteeing school-based sex education and facilitating contraceptive access became effective on Oct. 30. The law survived a presidential veto, and seven different legal suits by the Catholic Church were ultimately unsuccessful. Still, on Nov. 15, Guatemala City Archbishop Rodolfo Quezada promised to seek a Constitutional Court injunction against the law, which he has called on parents to disobey.
Under the law, the Education Ministry must include sex education in the primary school curriculum. In two tracks -- first through third grades and fourth through sixth grades -- students will be taught subjects such as personal care, reproduction, anatomy, pregnancy, responsible fatherhood and motherhood, and STDs.
"We are the Latin American country with the third-highest level of maternal mortality and the highest population [growth] rate," said Mirna Montenegro of the non-governmental Observatory on Reproductive Health.
Legal abortion is restricted to mothers facing life-threatening conditions. However, an estimated 65,000 girls and women in Guatemala get an abortion every year, often performed by non-medical personnel in unsterile conditions, according to a 2006 Guttmacher Institute report. Nearly 22,000 women each year are hospitalized for abortion-related complications, the report said.
The new family-planning law creates a national commission on contraceptives whose role is to oversee and ensure the distribution of birth control through the Health Ministry, the Social Security Institute, and other public and private health institutions, Montenegro said.
Inter Press Service
11.26.2009; Danilo Valladares
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.