San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Education Minister Clarifies Sex-Ed Comment

Public Education Minister Leonardo Garnier received some criticism last week after he told a reporter, “no one learns about sex with a textbook.”

His comment prompted a column on the opinion pages of the daily La Nación in which author Luis Carlos Ramírez said the minister’s comments “could presage an attitude of indifference, just like that of the ministers who preceded him.” He urged Garnier to take action to address Costa Rica’s 19,000 annual teenage pregnancies, adding that lack of knowledge about sexuality is partly to blame for the country’s many unplanned pregnancies and the overcrowding in the country’s schools.

Ramírez also praised President Oscar Arias for criticizing the Catholic Church’s position on birth control when he met with Pope Benedict XVI in June (TT, June 23). Garnier told The Tico Times in an email this week that his comment was misinterpreted.

“It was a quote taken out of context,” he said.“My point was, obviously, that the debate in Costa Rica has focused on the ‘famous textbooks’ and that a few textbooks, good or bad, aren’t enough for anyone to learn about a healthy and mature sex life.”

Sex ed guides for teachers and students have long been a controversial issue here. Catholic Church objections to a set of textbooks published in 1992 resulted in the removal of photos, diagrams and certain information about birth control (TT, Feb. 5, 1993). Teaching guides addressing sexually transmitted diseases, emotional aspects of sexuality and other issues were distributed in early 2004 without approval from the Church (TT, Feb. 27, 2004).

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