Students at Palawan State University (PSU) in Puerto Princesa City had a taste of what a class on reproductive health should be like if it were health columnist Dr. Margie Holmes and reproductive health (RH) law campaigner Carlos Celdran handling the course.
“Masturbation isn’t bad, it is fun you should even try it … and why haven’t you asked yet about oral sex?” Holmes quipped as she replied to a question from a student in a forum organized last month by the nongovernment organization Ugat ng Kalusugan.
The group, part of the policy lobby doing the round of the provinces to push for the implementation of the RH law which is currently the subject of debate in the Supreme Court, stressed that the point of having an open discussion with students about sex “is to confront the problems head-on and find meaningful solutions.”
“Teenage pregnancy on the PSU campus, a typical state university, is consistently on the rise and it’s a problem the school does not and cannot adequately handle,” said Susan Evangelista, a former faculty member who is now an RH advocate.
Celdran, whose support to the then RH bill sparked a lawsuit against him by the Roman Catholic Church, pointed out the importance of “dialogue as a way to address the problems confronted by the youth.”
He added that in discussing with students on campuses, they have found that their approach of engaging the youth in open discussions about sex and relationships “is an effective way to engage them.”
During the forum, which was punctuated by gasps and applause from faculty members during Holmes’ lecture, the students sat in a workshop where they were able to develop a lesson plan on what they would like an RH course to be like.
“We hope the RH (law will get implemented) and when it does, we need to figure out curriculums such as these to make it work,” said Ugat organizer Evangelista.
The RH law, signed by President Aquino in December last year, allows the state to use public funds to educate the youth on RH matters, improve maternal health and provide couples with contraceptives.
On July 16, however, the Supreme Court extended indefinitely its order stopping the government from implementing the law, just a day before its 120-day status quo ante order (SQA) was to expire.
It issued the SQA on March 19 following a petition filed by anti-RH advocates questioning the constitutionality of the law claiming, among others, that hormonal contraceptives were abortifacients.