There are currently two messages being directed at our youth in the current HIV/AIDS educational campaign. Today we shall place each of these messages in the balance.
There are certain actions that we know to be intrinsically wrong. We may not understand why, but when we do them, we feel guilt. This feeling of guilt is our conscience reacting to our wrong behaviour and it is an internal restraint against behaviour that may provide temporary pleasure, but that is not beneficial to the individual, their family or community.
If our conscience only reacted to the intent to pursue wrong behaviour, then there would be no need to teach our youth that irresponsible behaviour was wrong. However since the conscience tends to react during and after committing the offence, it is beneficial to warn our youth of the immediate and delayed consequences of such behaviour.
Some influential lobby groups view the conscience as an irritating instrument that restrains certain behaviour that they wish to promote as part of their agenda. They therefore encourage persons to engage in such behaviour that offends the conscience. While practising such behaviour repeatedly can lead to a suppression of the associated guilt, it can also lead to emotional damage.
Some nations have been influenced by such lobby groups to adopt irresponsible behavioural policies. Countries that adopt irresponsible lifestyles produce emotionally damaged individuals who are either left to fend for themselves, or are hidden behind very expensive supporting rehabilitative social services, which smaller economies may not have the capacity to institute.
The irony in this regard is that their successful rehabilitative initiatives are the ones that promote strict adherence to moral behaviour. However despite knowing this, such countries attempt to persuade smaller economies to adopt their behavioural policies. It is unwise to follow another nation’s behavioural policies simply because of their apparent economic status.
The current HIV/AIDS educational strategy is a classic case of directing two conflicting messages at our youth. The first is abstinence, which has been taught in Barbados for centuries. It means to wait to fully enjoy the indescribable and immeasurable heights of sexual pleasures with your wife or husband with no accompanying guilt. Such experiences are physically and emotionally beneficial and tend to result in healthier families and communities. This is an excellent promotional strategy that aids children’s emotional development, since it reinforces and confirms behaviour that supports their conscience.
The second message is “safe sex” and was recently imported to Barbados. It means essentially that when engaging in sex, especially with persons whom you do not know, then wearing a condom is responsible and safe sexual behaviour.
Our children are tempted to engage in sex from entertainment on the TV and movies, negative peer pressure at school and social events, and irresponsible adults. The “safe sex” message essentially redefines the temptation of fornication as a responsible option, with no moral component. It appeals to our adolescent’s newly awakened desire for sex, and supports succumbing to this temptation by minimizing the consequences.
Children can recognize where the emphasis is placed in such educational campaigns, and in this regard, it is placed on having sex, but doing it “safely”. Distributing condoms to teenagers reinforces the message that they can engage in sex provided that one party is wearing a condom. It is obvious that when presented with such a choice, that even children who were taught to live responsibly will find doing so very challenging.
Pre-teenagers need to know what is right and wrong, and teenagers need to know why certain behaviour is right and wrong. It is therefore imperative for our children, especially during adolescence, to receive clear moral direction. Marketing strategies like the “Your Condom or Mine” advertisement do not provide that moral direction.