Jamaica minister of education Ronald Thwaites said that the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ would not be promoted in the education system.
The decision follows an announcement by the minister last month to withdraw and to revise the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum for public schools as the teaching manual mentioned homosexuality.
Thwaites emphasised the importance of the HFLE curriculum but said only heterosexual relationships would be promoted in the education system, while expressing tolerance for those who chose alternative lifestyles.
‘I wish to make it quite clear that in the rewrite of that particular aspect of it, however it came to be, we are not going to be promoting homosexuality in this country. We’re just not going to do it.
‘We are going to promote healthy heterosexual relationships, but with a tolerance and compassion for those who adopt a different lifestyle. There is a difference between grooming and conditioning, and being tolerant; and that distinction is quite possible for us to craft’, quoted in the daily Jamaica Observer.
Last month Thwaites ordered the withdrawal and a revision of the sections of the HLFE manual to be used in grades seven to nine, following a media storm about it touching upon the subject of homosexuality.
Thwaites promised to have the ‘offending sections’ rewritten and back in schools in two months.
Some of the questions in the manual asked if teenagers had anal sex; whether they ever thought they were gay; knew their HIV status and if they had multiple partners.
The daily Jamaica Observer reported that some education experts said the questions pertinent as some adolescents were having sex from an early age and were indulging in anal sex.
They also said the manual, funded in part by international agencies, had undergone extensive review among teachers and guidance counsellors.
Thwaits however insisted that some of the questions should not be asked and only heterosexual lifestyles should be promoted.
‘It was totally unacceptable that that material should even have been issued.
‘The important thing is that we balance an appropriate exposure of sexuality and of human relationships to young people, but in an instance where you are not promoting and advancing a particular lifestyle which many consider to be inappropriate.’
The minister also thanked a number of churches and concerned groups which placed a full-page advertisement in the Jamaica Observer on Monday (1 Otcober) expressing grave concern about the curriculum and supporting his decision to have the offending parts withdrawn and rewritten.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican lawyer and leading LGBT rights advocate commented: ‘Jamaica’s minister of education, Roman Catholic Deacon Ronald Thwaites, has finally shown his true colours. He flatly rejects established scientific evidence that homosexuality is naturally occurring in 450 species in nature (including humans) and also wants Jamaican students to remain ignorant of that fact.
‘His claim to be in support of tolerance is hollow, when he clearly states that the only “healthy” relationship is a heterosexual one.
‘Thanks to his now stated policy of exclusion, LGBT students will continue to be denied accurate information on how to negotiate issues of sexuality.
‘These students will also continue enduring horrific acts of bullying and abuse by their homophobic classmates who will remain ignorant about homosexuality.
‘Thanks to this Minister, yet another generation of Jamaicans will never know what our national motto “Out of Many, One People” truly means. They will therefore be ill-equipped to function in modern pluralistic societies.’