Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
The human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is facing questions today over its decision to quietly introduce a sexuality course in six private children's homes.
JFJ is now close to winding up the course, which it started in the children's homes last October, without informing the Child Development Agency (CDA) or getting clearance from that body.
The course is being funded by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC), the group which led the fight to oust Professor Brendan Bain from his role as director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART), and which a is leading voice for the regional homosexual community.
This has prompted questions about the motives of JFJ, particularly in light of the claims by some critics that the course outline seems to mirror a controversial text pulled from local schools which introduced the children to same-sex relationships.
"Are you trying to push the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) agenda through the back door, and are you doing so with children who don't have any parents to defend them or advocate for them?" questioned Betty Ann Blaine, children's advocate and founder of Hear the Children's Cry.
The course, titled 'Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health Responsibly: JFJ's Pilot Intervention in Children's Homes', is to "provide marginalised youths in children's homes with rights-based information on sexual and reproductive rights to allow for their empowerment".
JFJ has also argued that the course is designed to furnish vulnerable youth in children's homes with knowledge and life skills to ensure their participation and enable improvements in their health-seeking behaviours.
"Access to key health and protective services and sustain healthy lifestyle practices; engage with and empower caregivers of targeted marginalised youth in children's homes, in order for them to improve the enabling and protective environment, and allow young people to claim their sexual and reproductive rights responsibly," are also some of the other objectives laid out by JFJ.
But last week, sources pointed to the similarities with contents of the lifestyle text which the Ministry of Education pulled from local schools in 2012, as they argued that JFJ seemed to be seeking to get the wards of the children's homes to accept a gay lifestyle.
"What we are asking Jamaicans for Justice to do is tell the Jamaican people exactly what is their agenda. I think it is very clear now that there is an agenda and they must tell the people of Jamaica," charged Blaine.
However, executive director of JFJ, Kay Osbourne, last week insisted that there was no hidden agenda in implementing the project.
"One of the most vulnerable populations are marginalised youths who have no parents, and these are kids and youths who live in children's homes. And this is the cohort that we are most familiar with, and that is why we did our project with them," said Osbourne.
CDA not informed
She also rejected criticisms that JFJ wanted to get to these vulnerable children through the back door so it did not inform the CDA of its plan.
"We don't have a relationship with the CDA. ... So if there are rules of engagement, it would be the homes who would know the rules of engagement, and they would be the ones who would have the relationship with the CDA," argued Osbourne.
JFJ further argued that administrators and their respective boards of directors at these homes approved the programme for implementation, and regulations governing the facilities give these bodies the right to arrange for the education of the wards and to seek the approval of the minister.
But for the Reverend Dr Stephenson Samuels, it does not matter who should have informed the CDA but the agency should have been brought into the loop.
"When persons are going to speak to issues on minority laws and discriminatory practices, these things, I think, are very sensitive in our modern world and, therefore, I think that those ought to be cleared with the national agencies ...," Samuels told The Sunday Gleaner.
The JFJ has argued that "sexual and reproductive health is a human right that is not always recognised, and marginalised youth are at greater risk of not having this right realised due to limitations with age of minority laws and discriminatory practices".
"These limitations help to contribute to the contraction of HIV among marginalised youth. JFJ's intervention, therefore, aims to promote a culture of responsibility regarding realising sexual and reproductive health in order to reduce the incidence of HIV infections in the adolescent population," added the entity.
The controversial clause in the book entitled, C-SEC Home Economics and Beyond (Management) by Rita Dyer and Norma Maynard, reads: "When two women or two men live together in a relationship as lesbians or gays, they may be considered as a family. They may adopt children or have them through artificial insemination."
Tailor-made for the course
The head of the home economics department at a prominent high school told The Gleaner that the book in question was tailor-made for the course. "It is a recommended text and it is prepared based on the current syllabus. Just as how the syllabus is laid out by the CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council), this book follows the exact format."
Documents viewed by The Gleaner news team from one prominent high school in Kingston showed that 'Same sex' was listed among the types of families. The documents also revealed that an assignment was given for the students to find photos that depict the different family types. Two photos depicting male as well as female homosexual unions were submitted as a part of the assignment and the student was given an A+ for her efforts.
While Jamaican law does not explicitly prohibit homosexuality, anal sex between men or buggery is a criminal offence.
The faculty at the institution vehemently denied that the teacher was presenting homosexual unions as an acceptable family type. The two vice-principals, who met with The Gleaner, conducted an investigation when our news team brought the matter to their attention. After the investigation, they concluded that the teacher did not act inappropriately.
"The teacher did not teach about same sex (families). She listed it just to say it existed. It was not taught, it arose and the teacher addressed it," said one of the vice principals who requested anonymity. "It's not in her notes or her lesson," he added as he presented a copy of the teacher's lesson plan for our perusal. MORE HERE
Human rights group, Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) is now close to winding up the course, which it started in the children's homes last October, without informing the Child Development Agency (CDA).
The group says it got permission from the homes and that it was not JFJ's responsibility to inform the CDA.
However, Blaine says she wants the human rights group to answer what she calls relevant questions about what informed implementation of the course and about its content.
Yesterday, Blaine questioned whether, JFJ has been trying to push the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual, agenda through the back door. Blaine has since sought to clarify her statements insisting that she is not out to discredit JFJ for introducing the course. However, she says the human rights group must answer the questions raised.
JFJ’s executive director, Kay Osbourne, has insisted that there was no hidden agenda behind implementation of the course.
Where will it end people this paranoia and fear-mongering?