A new report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation is advocating that children as young as 10 be given extensive sex education, including an awareness of sex's pleasures.
The report, "Stand and Deliver," charges that religious groups, specifically Catholics and Muslims, deny their young access to comprehensive sexual programs and education.
"Young people's sexuality is still contentious for many religious institutions. Fundamentalist and other religious groups — the Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic Schools) for example — have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction. Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex." the report states.
The report demands that children 10 and older be given a "comprehensive sexuality education" by governments, aid organizations and other groups, and that young people should be seen as "sexual beings."
"Young people have the right to be informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services," Bert Koenders, the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, wrote in the foreword to the report. It was his organization that helped fund the report.
The report argues that sex education should be "recast" to show sexuality as a "positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights and an expression of self."
Much like a U.N. report released last August that advocated teaching masturbation to children as young as 5, "Stand and Deliver" has set off a wave of protest among religious and conservative groups.
Ed Mechmann, spokesman for New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, charged that Planned Parenthood was "trying to teach children sex without values and that sex is a matter of pleasure and done without consequences."
He said religions like Catholicism and Islam teach sex as part of a much bigger picture and that Planned Parenthood was trying to de-link sex from traditional values.
"It is part of an effort to get children to reject traditional values and accept a liberal American-European view," he said. "In many traditional countries — Catholic and Muslim — it won't work and should be seen as cultural imperialism."
Mechmann also charged that Planned Parenthood's report was compromised because it has a financial stake advocating the changes. "The difference between Planned Parenthood and us is that we don't make money off what we teach and say. They do. They make money off contraceptives and abortions," he said.
Michelle Turner, president of the Maryland-based Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said Planned Parenthood was simply trying to eliminate parental say.
"What are they trying to do? They are trying to eliminate the role of mom and dad in the family," Turner said. "For Planned Parenthood to decide that governments, private organizations and religious organizations should make decisions about kids' sexuality is just going too far."
"It is part of a bigger push to change the way we think about sex," she said. That sex is all about pleasure and there are no consequences. They are wrong. No matter how much we teach children, some will make mistakes. They will forget. And Planned Parenthood doesn't want to deal with that," she said.
"They see religious groups, especially those that counsel abstinence and waiting until marriage, as bad guys," she added. "We aren't."
Planned Parenthood said it was unable to comment because the report was issued by its European office and it was unable to contact them.