Day 485 - Volunteer Service - Article 12

This article appeared in the Ames Tribune Newspaper on September 12, 2008.

Guest editorial: Sex education in rural panama

We're working with the Peace Corps Gender and Development group and volunteers from another organization to hold classes on sex education and birth control plus social and legal responsibilities. Panama is like the United States in that an adult who has sex with a minor (under the age of 18) can be prosocuted for statutory rape.

Drew, a Peace Corps worker, came up, and we went up to another village. With the help of CREA's two volunteers, we presented a sex education talk. There was a fairly decent turnout, mostly men. We had an anonymous question box. Many of the questions were about what age it is possible to get pregnant.

This is Jorelines' family (left to right) dad, Jorelines, mom, grandma, uncle. Her mother was just 17 and had to leave school when she found out she was pregnant. This was an unplanned pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in Panama.

Can a 12-year-old or 45-year-old have babies? And there were questions that made you wonder about sexually transmitted diseases. What does it mean if it hurts to urinate? Those type of questions.

This village has girls ages 13 to 15 who are with guys ages 20 to 35. The girls are getting pregnant. One of the families filed a lawsuit against one guy. He went to jail for three months. Now he's back, and the 14-year-old is pregnant, and he wants to marry her. The girl's parents are unwilling.

Drew gave the talk, and he was great. He speaks just like a Panamanian. He's got the words, the phrases, even how he laughs. I'm glad he came.

Foy and Jeff are Peace Corps volunteers in central Panama, some 40 miles northeast of Panama City. They live in a town of about 50 people that has no electricity. Their Peace Corps assignment is from May 2007 to Aug. 2009.

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