The Caribbean has the fastest growing rate of HIV infection in the 13-19 year old cohort of both male and female adolescents.Those living in poverty, on the street and in institutional care are at high risk of infection. In Jamaica the average age of sexual initiation is 14.5 years for males and 15.8 years for females. Like their peers in the general population, many children in State and private institutions are already sexually active; some girls are already mothers when they are admitted into the homes and some become pregnant while there. Many of the homes lack capacity and resources to create adequately protective environments for the youth.Evidence of alarming numbers of “critical incidents” involving sexual activity exists in the monitoring reports of the Child Development Agency (CDA) itself.
For over a decade, JFJ has worked on a wide range of human rights issues, including the rights and welfare of children in State care and in conflict with the law. Based on the evidence of children’s vulnerability to health risks, JFJ undertook a sexual and reproductive rights programme in six privately run homes. The purpose was to equip children with accurate and comprehensive information and life skills they could use to protect themselves against abuse, risky behaviour and the contraction of HIV.
A part of JFJ’s mandate is human rights education aimed at bringing about fundamental changes in attitudes and understanding of the concepts of human rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are internationally recognised. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989) – which Jamaica has ratified – enshrines reproductive rights for children. Moreover, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasized that children’s rights be respected in view of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and specifically mentions the rights to: sex education, preventative health care, and family planning education and services as important.
In addition to signing the UN CRC, Jamaica signed the Programme of Action for Population and Development (1994) which outlined that “full attention should be given to meeting the educational and service needs of adolescents to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality.” It identifies barriers to reproductive health and rights and states: “Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of their lack of information and access to relevant services in most countries.”
Sex education for children is an emotionally charge