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Dominican Catholic Church Sues NGO for Sexual Education Campaign

The Catholic Church filed an appeal against the Dominican Association for Family Welfare (Profamilia) [es] to withdraw their advertising campaign, “Your sexual and reproductive rights are human rights,” which uses the slogan “Know, Act, Demand” and aims to raise awareness about sex education, condom use, abortion, incest, harassment, and high-risk pregnancies.

The pastoral vicars for Family & Life and Health of the Archdiocese of Santo argue that this campaign encourages abortion and early sexual relationships; violates the right to life, the right of parents to exercise authority over their children, and the right to non-interference in the home; and uses images of children, which is prohibited by the Constitution.

On Saturday, May 11, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez accused Profamilia of promoting promiscuity in the country by encouraging underage sex. López Rodríguez said that the campaign promotes promiscuity, lawlessness, and vagrancy [es]:

A medida que usted reparte preservativos fomenta el derecho al sexo; es un invento de los individuos de hoy día que no tienen ninguna vergüenza, ningún principio; yo no creo en ONG’s, creo en los principios morales.

Handing out condoms promotes a right to sex; this is an invention of contemporary individuals who don't have any shame or principles; I don't believe in NGOs, I believe in moral principles.

Afiche campaña ProfamiliaAs usual, social networks were the site of a lively debate on the subject. Tweeters quickly coalesced under the hashtag #SometemeAMi (I answer to me) in solidarity with the NGO Profamilia. Among the most notable tweets:

Mariana Barrenese, a public policy specialist:

@MaruBarrenese: #SometemeAMi por apoyar abierta y públicamente a @profamiliaRD y su campaña

@MaruBarrenese: #SometemeAMi by openly and publicly supporting @profamiliaRD and their campaign

Jenny Torres, a poverty expert:

@JennyTorres67: Esta visión tan adultocéntrica no nos deja vivir #SometemeAMi que #YoApoyoaProfamilia

@JennyTorres67: This adult-centric vision won't leave us alone #SometemeAMi because #YoApoyoaProfamilia (I support NGO Profamilia)

Gloria Amézquita, a journalist and social activist:

@GloriaAmézquita: #SometemeAMi por luchar por el derecho a decidir. Porque en el cuerpo manda la persona, no la Iglesia.

@GloriaAmézquita: #SometemeAMi for fighting for the right to choose. Because people are in charge of their bodies, not the Church.

Even the prosecutor for the National District, Yeni Berenice, voiced her support for Profamilia's work:

@YeniBerenice: La campaña de @profamiliaRD educativa, oportuna, necesaria!

@YeniBerenice: @profamiliaRD‘s campaign is educational, timely, necessary!

In her masterful article The Case of Profamilia: A Sign of Weakness in the Catholic Church [es], Denisse Paiewonsky, a representative from the Mujer y Salud [es] (Woman and Health) collective, said:

La Iglesia no acaba de entender que las actitudes de la sociedad dominicana hacia el aborto terapeutico, el acoso sexual, la educación sexual científica en las escuelas, la anticoncepción, el embarazo adolescente, etc. se alejan cada vez más de la ortodoxia eclesial.

The Church does not understand that attitudes in Dominican society toward therapeutic abortion, sexual harassment, scientific sex education in schools, contraception, teen pregnancy, etc. are moving farther and farther away from Church orthodoxy.

Profamilia's official statement [es] on the Church's suit makes it clear that they will not retreat in their campaign and reaffirms their commitment to scientific, evidence-based, comprehensive sex education and the defense of sexual and reproductive rights as part of human rights.

Both parties were due in court on Monday, May 13, in the Fifth Chamber of the Civil and Commercial Court of First Instance in the National District. However, the hearing was postponed to next Monday, May 20, because the Church and its lawyers have not submitted their evidence to the court.

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