Latin America

Ecuador stops distributing condoms to fight “decadence” among teens

President Correa changes national family planning policy to focus on “traditional values”

Ecuador’s family planning director Mónica Hernández.
Ecuador’s family planning director Mónica Hernández.EDU LEÓN

Ecuador’s new strategy to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies is simple – tell youngsters not to have premarital sexual relations.

Under the government’s recently introduced national family planning campaign, contraceptives will no longer be promoted as a birth control method for adolescents.

President Rafael Correa believed that a change in policy was necessary because the old guidelines “promoted decadence” among teens, said Mónica Hernández, a doctor with more than 30 years of experience who helped draft the new plan.

Correa has difficulties in convincing many families to participate in his new program

In his weekly government reports to the nation, Correa has been focusing on the growing “decadence” among Ecuador’s youth and has criticized how contraceptives have been passed out “like chewing gum” at health fairs across the country.

Now the leftist Ecuadorian leader wants to make family values the top priority for his administration.

“I am not a member of Opus Dei, but I recognize the people of Opus Dei and I admire them,” said Hernández, who has come under fire by feminist groups for coming out against a government phone line for sexual education and the free distribution of contraceptives, both of which the old policy supported.

But the Correa administration has had difficulties in convincing many families to participate in its new program which, among other things, pushes parents to convince their children to postpone having sexual relations until after they are married.

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“We want to create parent groups or committees, and give them advice and information so that they can remain in contact with their children and give them all the support they need,” said Hernández, who joined the Correa government in 2013.

Now, the only part of the old program that remains are the condom dispensers in health centers, which lie empty.

Virginia Gómez de la Torre, a pro-choice and sexual rights activist, criticized the government’s new policy which, she said, was based on Correa’s personal opinion, rather than any evaluation of the old plan.

She explained that the previous program – known by its Spanish acronym Enipla – was created in 2010 when Ecuador was facing a rash of unwanted pregnancies. One in five young women became pregnant over the previous decade.

“We believe that pregnancies were reduced, above all in 2013,” she said. “Enipla worked because open discussions about sexuality were being held without focusing on family values.”

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