It’s my fault
Gomes says JFJ board didn’t approve content of sex-ed programme
GOMES… comfortable that the content provides accurate and globally accepted information about sexual and reproductive health and rights
THE content of the controversial sex education programme implemented by Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) in six privately run children’s homes did not get approval from the human rights organisation’s board.
That admission was made by Dr Carolyn Gomes in her resignation letter as a board member, a copy of which was obtained by the Jamaica Observer. Gomes, in her June 17 letter to JFJ chair Lisa Lakhan-Chen, took responsibility for the development of the project and the beginning of the implementation process, which, she said, occurred in the period October 2013 to December 2013 before she demitted office as executive director of the organisation.
“The project continued after I left, but at no time while I was [in] office did the specific content of the programme get board approval. For this I take full responsibility,” Gomes said in her letter.
It was not clear who had responsibility for the programme after Gomes left the organistion. However, JFJ has said that it began in January 2014, was focused on youth aged 13-17, and contained eight modules — ABCs of Human Rights; Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Responsibilities; Puberty, Reproduction and Body Image; Sexual and Reproductive Health; Gender; Sexuality and Society; Relationships; and Communication and Decision-Making Skills.
Gomes resigned as protests crescendoed over the programme that critics said was inappropriate for children as it contained lessons on oral, anal and vaginal penetration.
Titled ‘Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities, and Life Skills’, the project was funded by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC), the group that Gomes now serves as executive director following her resignation from a similar post at JFJ.
Responding to the howls of criticism, JFJ’s board of directors accepted “full and unconditional responsibility for not vetting the programme content and its release” and promised to take remedial action. At the same time, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna referred the manuals used in the programme to Attorney General Patrick Atkinson and Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison.
Specifically, Hanna has asked both Atkinson and Gordon Harrison for advice on what legal recourse is available to her ministry and/or the Child Development Agency (CDA). Hanna took the decision after it emerged that the programme was implemented without the knowledge of the CDA. Last week, the police announced that they are investigating the matter with a view to identifying possible breaches of the acts protecting children.
But Gomes, in her resignation letter, said she was “comfortable that the content provides accurate and globally accepted information about sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
However, she said she accepted that there was a “difference in commitment” to the programme between her and the JFJ board.