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Sex Ed Expert Looks At What Works & What Doesn't


Visiting Sex Education Expert Looks At What Works And What Doesn’t!

World renowned sexuality education expert, the Reverend Debra Haffner will be in New Zealand this week talking about what works and what doesn’t with sex education.

She is coming to Christchurch as the guest of the New Zealand Unitarians and will speak at their Universalist Conference. She will also run a workshop for sexuality educators, teachers, health promoters and youth workers on 23 March in Chrischurch.

Reverend Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing and was previously the CEO of the highly regarded Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). She was ordained as a religious minister in 2003. She is the author of two award-winning books for parents on raising sexually healthy children and has appeared on US television shows like Oprah, Dateline, Weekend Today and CBS This Morning.

Christchurch sexual health doctor, Sue Bagshaw, who is chairperson of the Collaborative for Research and Training in Youth Health and Development, says the chance to have this workshop with Reverend Haffner will be enormously valuable to people working with young people in the area of sexuality and relationship education.

“Reverend Haffner is an educator and author, who has been at the forefront of sexuality education for over 25 years. She has been outspoken about the United States President George W. Bush’s push to teach abstinence-only sex education, saying that people are being denied lifesaving public health information.”

While abstinence education is a key part of a child’s education, teenagers need a comprehensive education that will help them to take care of their sexual health and make informed decisions. The goal of sexuality education is to develop sexually healthy adults, Dr Bagshaw said.

“Reverend Haffner has challenged the moral vision of the right – posing the questions is it right to deny young people life saving information – and is it moral to coerce women to carry pregnancies to term and should one religious point of view be privileged in law over another’s?”

Dr Bagshaw says the heavily promoted and funded abstinence-only programmes rely on lectures and scare tactics to get youths to abstain, instead of emphasising communication skills.

“It will be timely to hear Reverend Haffner’s perspective given the abstinence-only versus sexuality education debate has been topical in New Zealand since the launch of the Ministry of Health’s “No rubba, no hubba hubba” safer sex campaign encouraging condom use.

“We need to consider what are the most effective ways of reaching our young people because our sexual health statistics suggest a lot of unsafe sex is occurring. Public health campaigns are one part of the equation – but education programmes will also have a significant role,” Dr Bagshaw said.

The three hour workshop called “Comprehensive sexuality education: reducing the risks – what works?” will be held at the Christchurch School of Medicine on March 23 from 9 am to 12pm. It has been organised by Family Planning and the Collaborative for Research and Training in Youth Health and Development.

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