Given its track record in the United States, the last thing that China (or any country) needs is abstinence-only sex education. But thanks to Focus on the Family, an American evangelical Christian non-profit which most recently denounced LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying programs as part of an insidious gay agenda, is bringing abstinence-only-until-marriage programming to schools in China’s Yunnan province starting this year. The goal, promoters say, is to reduce STDs and out-of-wedlock births, as well as limiting population growth and maintaining traditional values. This, based on the success rate of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the U.S., it is unlikely to do.
The curriculum, which took two years to translate into Chinese and another two years to run through bureaucratic channels, warns against the dangers of STDs, abortion, and teenage pregnancy; it also gives girls suggestions for ways to turn down men, like:
“Do you want to bet my future on that condom?”
“I’m not like everyone else.”
“If you want to celebrate our love, bring me roses at 7 p.m. and let’s go to dinner.”
The idea of abstinence-only sex education was apparently appealing to conservative leaders in the Chinese government, despite the fact that previous abstinence-only programs, which involved virginity pledges, were ended by leaders who pointed out that youth should be pledging only to the communist government. However, Focus on the Family seems determined to get a piece of this market, sparked by China’s rapidly changing sexual mores.
According to the Washington Post, “Condom companies are vying to capture a lucrative share of China’s population of 1.3 billion. The United Nations, HIV-prevention groups and others are pouring millions into safe-sex programs.” And so abstinence-only seems, to groups like Focus on the Family, to be the next step, despite the fact that such programs, which rely on fear and shame to convey limiting messages, will only exacerbate the problems that they’re ostensibly trying to solve. Stigma and discrimination remain massive problems for STD testing and treatment in China, particularly with regard to HIV/AIDS, and for a country trying to deal with rapid population growth, sex education programs that don’t mention contraceptives are the wrong way to go.
It’s unclear whether programs like these will be successful; certainly, they’re Focus on the Family’s attempt to promote a very specific ideology abroad, although oddly enough, they’ve promised the Chinese government that there would be no religion in the programming. We can only hope that the government’s apparent desire to promote “traditional” values will dwindle as officials realize that these programs are completely ineffective, but since such pragmatism seems to elude many U.S. lawmakers, it’s hard to know what will happen in China.
Photo from CoolVirginity.com.