President Bush has often received criticism for the apparent failures of the abstinence education program that he founded as governor of Texas. During the presidential race, Bush used the abstinence program as one of his platforms, promising that he would push to match the federal funding received by the more popular Safe Sex campaign.
But a recent survey of 2,000 teenagers across the country found that President Bush's "No Sex" program has had no significant effect on students' abstinence from sex compared to the students that were involved in the conventional sex program.
The $1 billion spent on this abstinence campaign since 1998 has obviously been in vain.
The Republicans stood behind the President's campaign, stressing the importance of abstinence as a way to guarantee avoiding unplanned pregnancies, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases. However, there have been many critics to Mr. Bush's campaign over the years, especially when he extended the program to unmarried adults 19 to 29, an age group where 90 percent are sexually active. Even though some might say that this is one of the few promises of his campaign that President Bush carried through on, it seems that this would have been better left untouched.
The program which proved to be ineffective was highly funded by the federal government and wasted many of our tax dollars. Critics of the program argue that not only had there not been enough research done on the abstinence education program when the President was pushing for greater funding, it also fails to educate teenagers about safe sex, in this regard it could be counterproductive.
President Bush should have not put an immense amount of funding in a program that lacks research. This program has been sponsored by the federal government for almost a decade. Nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer money has been wasted, without any apparent benefit to our children.
Even though the concept of abstinence should be stressed among the youth, the way this program was implemented was not very pragmatic.
A simple class in middle school cannot stand up to an outside world, where media bombards the youth with sexually charged material on a daily basis. And making choices about sex is not just a one-time issue; it is something that comes up constantly during the course of a person's life.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, there has been a drop in teen pregnancy in the developed world over the past 25 years. While that might come as a relief to some, the same institute reports that at least three quarters of the female population in developed countries are sexually active by the age of 20.
In other words, while teen pregnancy might be down, it does not mean that teenagers are less likely to be sexually active. The question is: how do we enable teenagers to understand and accept abstinence?
We believe that before we can put all the blame on the youth or a program for not doing its job, we need to take a closer look at society and the ways in which it promotes sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
We live in a society where sex is used as a marketing tool to reach out to both youth and adults alike. While abstinence needs to be encouraged, short of promoting a particular spiritual outlook on the importance of the practice, we need to at least redefine the way premarital sex is depicted in our society and ensure that our children understand the repercussions of their actions.
According to Islamic guidelines, it is clearly stated that one should abstain from intercourse until marriage. While sex is considered to be highly positive according to Islam, it needs to be within healthy parameters which can only be fulfilled within the boundaries of a marital relationship made holy by Allah.
We need to stress the correct perspective on sex and abstinence to our community, especially to our youth, who are bombarded with sexual temptations from all directions, whether it is via the Internet, television, radio, or temptation from peers. We cannot ignore the problems around us and assume all will be well. At the same time that we discuss the issues, we need to provide the sort of positive social network that helps our community members shun such filth.
Even though some of the responsibility falls on the parents to set the proper foundation for their children's future, it is also the job of society and our community in particular to maintain a standard for others to look up to.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared in a previous edition of Islamic Insights.