Finding Common Ground: Where #EvilSpirts and #GoodSpirits Converge

Yesterday I attended the #EvilSpirits forum that was put on by Wayne West and the team at the JSSACHAR Foundation.

The forum was quite interesting and indeed spirited, but not very confrontational in my opinion, which was a pleasant surprise.

It was a truth-stretching space, stretched so much that one would wonder if it was really just a satirical set.

The audience was treated to several presentations focused on the evil powers of international aid agencies that are sexualising our children through Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum. We were also advised that Appropriate Sex Education (ASE) is what we need, which takes a more biblical, moral, and ethical approach to sex education.

We were told that

  • CSE can mean anything and everything including porn;
  • CSE promotes sexual freedom and promiscuity;
  • CSE promotes early sexual activity;
  • CSE promotes the LGBT agenda;
  • CSE threatens children’s health;
  • CSE promotes abortion as a right;
  • CSE promotes diverse sexual orientation;
  • CSE promotes high risk sex behaviour such as anal intercourse;
  • CSE disrespects parents;
  • CSE disregards religious values;
  • the HFLE promotes homosexuals as superior to heterosexuals;
  • the HFLE is anti-development and anti-ethical;
  • removing the ‘buggery law’ will lead to sexual anarchy;
  • there should be no sexual rights for children.

We were also told that

  • ASE for children must include abstinence;
  • ASE should encourage persons to save sex for marriage;
  • ASE insists that there should be no sexual activity for children;
  • ASE promotes a biological (and not a sociological) view of gender;
  • ASE protects and promotes the rights of parents.

And we were advised that

  • parents should be wary of international bodies & aid agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA & UNESCO promoting and attempting to institutionalise CSE;
  • the highest authority of morality is the church.

But that’s not really why I’m writing…

I am writing because I want us to start thinking about the way forward in a very practical, conciliatory way.

How can Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) advocates and health practitioners who understand the real world and people of faith who are more preoccupied with the Bible world, reach a point of common understanding for the benefit and welfare of all?

Where can we find common ground?

On what issues do we agree in principle?

What are some possible starting points?

Following the forum I was a part of a group of about six people who were engaged in dialogue about church, Christianity, SRHR, and sexuality. It wasn’t hostile. Views were allowed to contend, even though  for some time there appeared to be no common ground. Truth be told, I was really there for the fun at first, but then I recognised the value of the dialogue.

As folks shared their views including some of my young advocate friends (on whose faces I could see the pain and struggle), I realised in that moment just how draining advocacy work can be in religious spaces, and I felt their pain.

But alas there was hope!

I asked Carol Richards (I think that’s her name) who was leading the charge for Christian folks in the dialogue, whether, in her opinion there was such a thing as marital rape – because I know Wayne West et al believe there really should be no such thing… To my surprise she said of course a man can rape his wife, of course a man can abuse his wife, and it’s wrong!

She got me there. It was our common ground. And the energies shifted. We were high-fiving and sh!t!

Of course we ventured into sexuality stuff, and as she spoke about the goodness of her sanctified husband’s sexual prowess, I spoke about the goodness of my wife’s. At one point she said but the Bible says woman mustn’t love woman, and I exclaimed ‘but it nice!’ We all had a good laugh – no hate, no judgement, no ridicule, no name-calling, just real refreshing dialogue and debate.

As we departed she asked us all where we were from – I quickly exclaimed with hand in the air: J-FLAG! She then asked the others if they were from J-FLAG too. My colleague who was there said yes and the other persons shared their respective affiliations. She then suggested she must be a magnet for our spirit, lol! Mi tell ar shi ah goodaz.

So although she was there and would be considered a Wayne West et al supporter, she was also very conciliatory and practical in her exchanges with us. And we need more of this on both sides. We have to be willing to shift a little to the middle, and it doesn’t mean we are ‘giving up our rights’.

This little post-event conversation taught me a lot and I hope J-FLAG, WMW Jamaica and other civil society organisations can arrange for people like her to engage in more dialogues of this nature. We need to move (all of us – both sides) if what we want is, in fact, a just, safe and equitable society for all.

 

 

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