Sunday, April 23, 2006

Russians take aim at Western anti-AIDS methods

Russians take aim at Western anti-AIDS methods

From the AFP, via Yahoo - We have a news story that will sound very familiar to Americans. Surprise! Yes, we Americans have this very same debate regarding the nature of safe sex promotion and various groups which promote it, versus churches, conservative parents groups, conservative congressmen, etc.
As AIDS cases rise in Russia, tactics to fight the disease have become a divisive issue with some politicians charging that education on safe sex pushed by Western groups amounts to promotion of immorality and calling on President Vladimir Putin to intervene.

"In the guise of AIDS prevention, Western foundations encourage pedophilia and prostitution," Lyudmila Stebenkova, a member of the Moscow municipal legislature representing the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, charged recently.

"They even show children how to put on a condom!" she complained.

Shocked by a UNICEF film distributed to Moscow schools, Stebenkova urged the Moscow legislature - which, like the national parliament, is controlled by United Russia - to vote in favor of an appeal calling on Putin to limit the activities of international anti-AIDS groups in Russia.

A draft text of the proposed appeal to Putin has received the backing of Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This was not the first time that the country's authorities, increasingly out of synch with the West, have addressed the issue.

Stebenkova, who chairs the city's health commission, had already drawn the ire of AIDS-combatting groups after recently launching a poster campaign in Moscow dominated by the slogan: "There is no safe sex."

Critics interpreted the slogan as an attack on contraception use and a call for abstinence.

"We're buying AIDS prevention programs from countries we were at war with a few years ago," said Vadim Pokrovsky, chief of the federal center on preventing and fighting AIDS.

While I agree with promotion of safe sex and sexual education, within the United States it seems to be started at earlier and earlier ages, and with undesirable messages and subtexts (this is my opinion). Sexual education seems to have become so liberal in the past decade, to the point that even liberal minded people question the methods and messages favored by groups such as Planned Parenthood.

These groups within Russia are picking up the identical message. Although this sounds like mostly conservative backlash - Russia can be surprisingly conservative. There is a very real dichotomy within Russia, between the decadent and lurid versus the traditional and religious. The West positions itself yet again to suffer another backlash from conservative Russian elements, through guilt of association.


Megan Case said...

Hmm. Don't agree with you about the "liberalization" of sex education in the US. The more information the better.

And Russia complaining about western methods of sex education, well, that's just ridiculous. Russia is way less puritanical than the US and if anything its kids need more sex education sooner. My Russian friends seem to think there's nothing strange about 14-year-old girls having sex, even with guys in their early 20's, abortion is widely accepted as a birth control measure, and there's nothing scandalous about a woman having a baby at 17 or 18. So they should be teaching kids to put on condoms, oh yes they should.

W. Shedd said...

You might not be aware of some of the more recent headlines regarding Planned Parenthood and their promotion of oral sex with young teenage girls, etc. It has made some headlines in various magazines.

I was attempting to show the kind of hysteria that some parents launch into.

I actually think there is a real dichotomy in behaviors in Russian women. Many are exactly as you said. And then there are also many who are quite the opposite. I've really encountered both extremes. I know one girl in Rostov V. who recently acquainted herself with Katja (strange story but won't get into that here). The girl is 19 years old and admitted to 9 abortions. Katja says that unfortunately this isn't so uncommon. Her upbringing was very different from this, however.

So while I agree with sex education and informing teenagers about safe sex practices - it often seems to Americans that groups like Planned Parenthood take it too far. I'm just relating the headlines and stories from parents groups here, take it for what it is worth. I've spent time talking with my son on this topic in the last two years (he is 13). Ultimately, I think parents need to do a good job of educating their children and teaching them morals and acceptable behaviors. Many Russian (and American) families seem to avoid this responsibility.

W. Shedd said...

I should also add that much of the promiscuous behavior noted by young Russian men and women - is directly associated with the West and this imagined bill of goods that we supposedly forced upon Russia.

It often seems to me that bad culture phenomenon associated with Russian peoples sudden freedom of choice and permissiveness, has come to be attached with ideas of Democracy and Westerness. I can show time and again where politicians, writers, artists, make this connection. I think there is a real backlash towards the West as a result, due to consequences and associations we never intended. I see this reflected in words such as "we are buying AIDS prevention from countries we were at war with a few years ago". The implication is we are trying to kill them.