Further to my earlier discussions of August 24, 2016, and January 18, 2019, this Framework was developed as a response to ‘significant sexual and reproductive health challenges such as cases of teenage pregnancy, early marriages, HIV and gender-based violence in schools’.
Uganda has liberal policies on religious matters as a political ideology. It stresses individual freedom, equality, and dignity.
However, this liberty and freedom can only be practiced in a democratic manner because biologically no two individuals are exactly the same. Ugandan population is over 85% Christian (Census 2014).
That means the majority of Ugandans prefer to live a Christian way of life and the State is obliged to provide an enabling environment for them to learn and practice their faith. Beliefs influence behavior; what the mind believes affects what the body will do. For instance, if the mind believes in only one God, then the body will worship one God.
If the mind believes drinking is wrong, then the body is more likely not to drink. Often these beliefs are re-enforced by infusing ‘god-fearing’ elements such as heaven-hell and salvation as rewards.
Today Ugandans are preaching patriotism which is love, respect, and duty towards the country and it is not the same as religion. Sometimes these ideologies may conflict because one is spiritual and the other is physical. Patriotism cannot stand alone without God.
The National Sexuality Education Framework which is the subject of national dialogue today will not solve the root causes of sexual malpractices/violence. The project only targets symptoms.
The program aims at developing and strengthening the ability of children and young people to make conscious, right, healthy deliberate, safe, and respectful choices’. In other words, before a child engages in sex activities, he/she would have made a deliberate and ‘respectful choices’. It implies that if the objectives are achieved, then they would have reduced or eliminated ‘high cases of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, HIV and gender-related violence in the country’.
‘Sexual abuse’ is defined as ‘unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force’. The keywords are ‘using force’ which contradicts with ‘right, respectful choices’.
New Vision of 5, 2019 reported that seven out of 10 pupils in primary school were abused sexually, the commonest abusers being teachers entrusted with keeping children. The Education Local Enterprises Centre in Uganda reported 67% of the abuses are by male teachers. Children are enticed with money, marks for sex, etc.
Children from single, same-sex, broken, and unstable families have emotional problems and are vulnerable to be lured to sex or early marriages. There are harmful practices in boarding schools: boys practice homosexuality and girls lesbianism in their dormitories. There is witchcraft in schools, students have tattoos on their bodies and some are drug addicts.
There are two main root causes of sexual and reproductive health challenges. One is religious education. Religious education in schools collapsed in the 1970s. Christian Religious Education (CRE) which is taught in schools today is not the same as catechesis.
Every religion is different, so their beliefs are also different. You cannot gather children of different beliefs in one class and teach them religion in diversity. For instance, there are two major Christian denominations in Uganda: Catholic and Protestant. The Catholics have seven Sacraments while the Protestants have two.
The Protestant Bible has 66 books while Catholic one has 73 books. Church services are different.
Sermons on Sundays are not enough, religious dogma should be taught and it is the reason Christians move from Church to Church looking for greener pastures – they lack in-depth knowledge of their religion.
Religion and government are more successful and most effective when they protect and encourage one another.
The only real solutions to many of the serious problems facing the world today are spiritual, not political or economic. The problems of the youth: violence, abortion, sexual abuse, etc are spiritual problems and their only real solution is spiritual. It is impossible for the government to control the attitudes, desires, and hopes that come from the human heart.
In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus contrasted the law written on books with the law written in the heart (Mt 5: 21-22). So while governments enforce the law written on the books, religion teaches and encourages adherence to the law written in their heart. Those who abide by the latter will seldom if ever violate the former.
The second root cause of sexual malpractices is the European influence with their declining spirituality.
Christian civilization is falling in Europe. They take advantage of our dependency economically and ideologically to import their beliefs and cultures to Africa. Most projects are donor-driven with strings attached.
In Uganda, sexual intercourse is a private affair, in Europe, it is public: maybe in private, but viewed from public places like hotels, beaches, etc. Gay-marriages are legalized in 26 countries according to Pew Research Centre.
Religious traditions understand sexuality as a gift and, as such, seek to provide the moral and ethical framework for responsible sexual relationships that lead to the flourishing of every human being.
Religions teach abstinence from sex until marriage following God’s Commandment. Sex is only practiced in a lawful marriage and we cannot teach our children anything else outside.
Let the government perform its duty to curb the influence of the media in sexual matters and make the educational environment safe for learners from teachers’ sexual exploitation and harassment.
Dr. Okoth Josue is a concerned Christian and Citizen