Censoring sex education is not a ‘new idea’

President Nayib Bukele’s New Ideas government appears to be failing to consider the potential of sexuality education to promote understanding and reduce violence against sexual and gender minorities. This position is not innovative, but rather an outdated and biased idea.

Ministry of Education of El Salvador fired recently to the director of the National Institute for Teacher Training and announced a “restructuring” of that institution. The reason? The institute has approved a segment on to study at home — a distance learning television program launched during the pandemic — that explains the concept of sexual orientation.

the ministry he pointed out that the information does not “correspond to reality [salvadoreña]”. Later, the website of the institute became unavailable and is currently showing an error message.

The segment, which was aimed at eighth graders, featured animated images of boys and girls playing games, riding motorcycles, and listening to music. The narrator defines heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality using basic terms appropriate for the age of the recipients. The program did little more than provide the most basic information about the natural variation of human sexuality.

Despite the ministry’s attempt to ignore lesbians, gays and bisexuals, all these people are part of the “Salvadoran reality”. President Bukele acknowledged this when he described himself as a “hetero ally” in 2014 and called the fight for LGBT rights “the civil rights struggle of our time.” The Supreme Court also found that the constitution protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2009 and gender identity in 2022.

Why did the government decide to censor important information about sexual orientation? This is not logical when considering the possibilities offered by such an education to reduce the high levels of violence faced by LGBT people.

In January 2021, Human Rights Watch published a report on violence against LGBT people, which limits their choices in life and forces them to leave El Salvador. The organization COMCAVIS TRANS has previously concluded that this insecurity also leads to internal displacement of LGBT people. Transgender people are particularly vulnerable.

Comprehensive sexuality education, to which boys and girls are entitled, could contribute to reducing this violence if it is rights-based and age-appropriate. It can give young people the knowledge to form a positive view of different sexualities, both their own and those of their peers. Various experts have found that this type of education can help prevent discrimination and violence against sexual and gender minorities.

Unfortunately, the Salvadoran authorities seem to have no interest in developing the full potential of education. In addition to program censorship to study at home by the government, the Legislative Assembly expressly omitted any meaningful mention of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Grow Together Law, which regulates the rights of Salvadoran children and adolescents.

The legislator also softened the content of the article of this law on comprehensive sexuality education, noting that families have a “primary and fundamental role” in providing this type of education, which represents an obstacle in relation to a previous draft in which the role was shared by “the family , society and the state”. When the family is given the “primary” responsibility for providing this education, failure is the expected result. Some families may not have the time, training, or information to impart such education.

Censoring information about sexual orientation and gender identity is not a “new idea”: it’s an old idea rooted in prejudice. The Salvadoran authorities must fulfill their international responsibility to educate young people about sexuality and gender, and not overburden parents by giving them the “primary” responsibility for this. This information can help reduce violence against LGBT people by promoting tolerance and acceptance. This is what the Salvadoran reality needs.

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