Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Girls' high school teaches value of sexual abstinence

CONTROVERSIAL The school says it wants to teach students to treasure their bodies, but critics call the campaign a step back for women's rights

STAFF WRITER

Beginning this academic year, the Shu Guang Girls' Senior High School in Hsinchu City is offering a new life science course called "New Conviction of True Love" for seventh and eighth graders. The goal of this course is to promote the importance of sexual abstinence.

After each student successfully passes the course, she can decide whether to obtain and sign a "true-love abstinence commitment card" issued by the school.

Holding such a card means she has promised to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. The school said that more than 90 percent of students who recently completed the course have obtained the card and signed a pledge of abstinence.

AMERICAN MODEL

The movement of promoting abstinence at this Catholic school can be traced back to the US-based True Love Waits (TLW) campaign, an international effort that challenges teenagers and college students to follow abstinence. TLW was created in April 1993 and is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources -- the world's largest provider of religious products and services. Similar to the card issued by the Shu Guang Girls' Senior High School, more than 2.4 million young people have signed TLW commitment cards since 1993.

The "true-love abstinence commitment card" is the size of a credit card, bears the words "I Promise" on the front and has a space for a signature and starting date on the back.

The course instructor, Sister Chen Hui-chi (陳惠姬), said people may think that the idea of abstinence is obsolete, and that such thinking has had a great impact on families. She said that sex education should not be limited to promoting contraception, but rather, to allow students to know how to talk about their own bodies and therefore treasure them.

Chen said that the course topics include "self-observation," "the meaning of a loving relationship," "sexually-transmitted disease prevention," "the worthiness of waiting" "how to say no," and others.

EMPTY GESTURE

But Lin Yen-ching (林燕卿), dean of the Graduate School of Human Sexuality at Shu-Te University, suggested that when issuing the abstinence commitment card, other measures should be carried out at the same time, such as safe-sex education. Otherwise the card will only be meaningless.

Some women's and gender equality groups view the abstinence campaign as a step backward for gender equality, since the "true love" movement only targets female students. They believe the campaign weakens women's rights. Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), director of the Awakening Foundation, a women's rights group, said that the effort perpetuates gender stereotypes.

Wang Ping (王蘋), director-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association of Taiwan, slammed the "true love" campaign as not promoting true love at all, since sexual abstinence prior to marriage is not a requirement for being a "good girl."

She criticized the course for taking advantage of young women's right to receive sex education, and trying to put them in the minority on the issue of sex before marriage. Fu Mu-lung (傅木龍), a section director from the Ministry of Education's Committee on School Discipline and Moral Education, warned that despite the school's good intention of giving students "correct" beliefs about sex, their programs may only invite disdain from students later on.

Yao Li-ying (姚麗英), president of the Shu Guang Girls' Senior High School, defended the "true love" campaign, saying that it does not target only young women, and that the school never forces students to sign the cards.

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