Vietnam teenagers laud church's sex education initiative

In a country where sex issues are taboo, parents tell children to keep themselves safe but not what to do
Vietnam teenagers laud church's sex education initiative

Doctor Teresa Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh conducts a sex education seminar run by Ho Chi Minh Archdiocese on April 2. ( photo) reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
April 6, 2017
Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese is educating teenagers with traditional Catholic teachings about sex and relationships to help them avoid falling victim to sexual abuse.

The seminar on reproductive health held at Thuan Phat Church in Ho Chi Minh City on April 2 was attended by 80 young people.

Child sexual abuse is a problem in Vietnam. During a press conference on April 4, Colonel Pham Van Ngan, deputy of Vinh Long Province's Public Security Department, said there have been nine cases of child abuse in the province already this year. He asked schools and other government agencies to inform young people of ways to protect themselves.

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said there were 5,300 cases of child abuse in the past five years, adding that the number is probably the tip of the iceberg.   

Recently, Huynh Thanh Trung, 28, from Vinh Long province, was arrested for sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl and getting her pregnant. Such cases are often repeated.

As well as being educated on how to protect themselves, seminar participants saw video clips on issues relating to puberty, conception and development of foetuses, presented by Doctor Teresa Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh.

Minh advised teenagers to protect themselves from abortions, sex-related illnesses and not to have sex early and with many partners. "We should attend services at churches, do charitable and social work, play sports and live a good life so that we can control our sex drive and avoid bad consequences," she said.

"It was helpful. It taught us ways to look after our reproductive health, avoid sexual abuse and abortions," said Michael Nguyen Ngoc Hai Dang, a participant.

When people understand sex is a gift from God, "they will respect their own bodies and will not dare abuse others. Sexual abuse is against the law and church teachings," he said.

Catherine Dinh Minh Nguyet, another participant, said she learned many helpful lessons from the seminar. "In the past, my mother told me to keep myself safe from sexual abuse but she never taught me what to do," she said. Sex is still a great taboo in Vietnamese society.

Father Francis Assisi Dinh Hong Phuc, a priest at the parish in Ho Chi Minh City where the seminar was held, said the seminar aimed to educate youth about sex and morality in a society where people are encouraged to pursue a libertine way of life.

"Catholics have a duty to maintain their reproductive health and respect other people's dignity and bodies," Father Phuc said.

He said parishes plan to hold more seminars on sex education in catechism classes and run courses for couples considering marriage.

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