By: Mildred M. Vargas Astacio
On August 14, 2013, the organization Puerto Rico Rises to Defend the Family opposed Sen. Maritere González’s projects P of S 484 and P of S 437 because they claim that the projects violate Puerto Rican’s childhood and traditional family values.
According to the amendment presented for the Article 6.03 of the Law 149-1999, the P of S 484 proposes that the Department of Education include a curriculum on gender issues in the public schools. The project is intended as an educational tool for teaching respect, equality and, diversity and to free the children from stereotypes and bullying.
On the other hand, P of S 437 proposes that adoption laws be more flexible to allow for second parent adoption, which would enable same sex couples to adopt and both be legally the parents of the child.
César Vázquez, spokesman of Puerto Rico Rises to Defend the Family, said to the press: “We reject Senate Bill 484 because it suggests that a normal sexual behavior doesn’t exist and that all differences between men and women are learned and imposed by society.”
As a result of Vázquez’s and other fundamentalists’ expressions, members of Puerto Rico for Everyone voiced their opinion. On September 16, 2013, David Román, spokesperson of Puerto Rico For Everyone, said to the press: “The fundamentalist’s opposition to the inclusion of gender in schools demonstrates a lack of knowledge about this subject and how it can promote a culture of peace, inclusion and gender equity.”
According to the newspaper Primera Hora and the National Experimental University of Security, recent scientific studies indicate that states and countries that included gender perspective curriculum inside an educational system have managed to reduce bullying and violence between couples from approximately 4,465 to 2,090 reported cases.
In Puerto Rico, the proposed curriculum on gender has been gaining supporters and opponents, but not everyone knows what it is, what will do or what the material will teach the children. The national debate on gender education was tackled recently at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez from different points of views.
On November 7, a press conference on LGBTT rights and struggles took place in the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, where panelists discussed the new curriculum. UPRM Professor Luis Nieves Rosas, Lawyer José Rodríguez Irizarry and major in English Elvin Ramos, explained how the gender issue curriculum will be taught and how it will affect the students.
Nieves began stating that “the new curriculum will teach students, including kindergarten, about sexuality regarding masculinity and femininity, gender issues, respect and equality.” He added that “the curriculum will help promote diversity and accepting it, teaching that we cannot be racist and discriminate people that function at different levels.”
According to Bullying Statistics, bullying has been increasing and is targeting 9 out of 10 LGBTT youth. According to a petition made by Jorge Sepúlveda, hates crimes towards LGBTT individuals and communities in Puerto Rico have increased around more than 20 since 2009. Both situations have been caused by discrimination and prejudice that has been even taught by the parents at some point of people’s life during their childhood.
Rodríguez agreed with Nieves. “The State’s priority is to impose lectures that teach students about their rights and that gender identity doesn’t contrast them from their peers.” He added that “parents will not be able to teach without prejudice.”
Elvin Ramos echoed Rodríguez’s viewpoints and added: “educating students about LGBTT issues will help them function better outside of the classroom and be more compassionate.”
The panelists agreed with LGBTT advocates that gender education will be positive for children and society. But religious groups disagree and argue that it will confuse the children and the youth, promoting sexual behavior bad for their health and homosexuality.
Whether including the gender issue or gender perspective curriculum in Puerto Rico’s educational system or not is still in debate.