Luis Miguel Bermúdez first began teaching sex education at one of Colombia’s biggest public schools in 2010. Located in the city of Bogotá, the school had some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country at the time—and Colombia has one of the highest rates in Latin America.
To tackle this problem, Bermúdez took a different stance from the religious-based teachings that Colombian schools typically provide. He worked with parents, teachers, council officials and—most importantly—students to create a sex ed program that was built around an open attitude toward sexuality. The course covers topics like sexual diversity, human rights and desire.
Now, just over five years after the program started, the school’s pregnancy rate has gone from around 70 per year to zero!
Perhaps the class was a great success because students could talk in a safe space about sexuality, LGBTQ rights and sex. Although Colombian law states that girls age 14 and older can seek sexual health advice without parental consent, girls in the class said they were shunned and rejected when they sought reliable information from professionals.
Success like this has not been seen anywhere else in Bogotá, but Bermúdez is determined to help bring the program to the rest of Colombia and the world. We can be hopeful that rather than scaring teenagers, more educators across the globe will take the approach that Bermúdez did when teaching teens about sexual health.
There are fewer pregnant teens than at any time since we started tracking the statistic, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute. The teenage birthrate and abortion rate have also hit record lows, although the decline has been slightly less dramatic.
Even though increasing proportions of women ages 18 and 19 reported having sex, the smallest portion on record are getting pregnant. “Changes in contraceptive use are likely driving this trend,” write authors Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw. Previous studies have found that media awareness of teen moms, like the eponymous MTV show “Teen Moms,” are also responsible for declining pregnancies, although the 30-year trend suggests that there’s something else (presumably sex education and wider use of contraceptives) besides a new MTV show driving the trend.
National trends are instructive, but sometimes it’s more useful to break the United States into individual, well, states, to capture the finer strands. I downloaded the data for historical state-by-state teen pregnancies from Guttmacher and looked at the last 20 years. No state saw a steeper drop in its abortion rate than California.
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