Giggling nervously over films where naked people are shown is common in high school classrooms in Ecuador, as well as in some college level classrooms. Ecuador is a Catholic country as a result of the Spanish tradition. From colonial times up until Ecuador became a republic, Catholic religion was imposed as the only and true religion. In fact, the clergy controlled education in the country throughout the 19th Century. It wasn´t until the beginning of the XX Century, after the Liberal Revolution in 1895, that Church and State separated.
When the colonies separated from Spain, in the first half of the 19th Century, power remained the privilege of Creole elites and as a result, conservative ideologies stayed the same: class divisions, a patriarchal State and Catholicism all over people´s lives. Religion has molded mentalities and has shaped behavior and the Ecuadorian way of life. As our parents and grandparents recall, sex was not a topic to be talked about. In other words, sex education was unthinkable many years ago and children grew up lacking basic understanding of how the human reproductive system works. Questioning the system, family, tradition and religion was considered a threat to society. Girls had to be virgins until they married. And boys…well, since “machismo” is part of the mentality, double standards applied and therefore, sexual initiations would take place in brothels and such.
Fortunately, nowadays things have changed or are in the process of change. Sex education is offered in many schools as part of the academic program. So, if a student cannot ask or talk about sex with their parents, she or he can get more answers around the school environment much more easily than years before. Moreover, students also have access to radio and TV programs that provide sexual education nation wise. However, because of the still developing educational system in Ecuador, there is a high rate of teenage girls who get pregnant every year. According to el Comercio.com, Ecuador is the sixth Latin American country with significant teenage pregnancies. What is more, according to Metro.ecuador.com.ec, in the last ten years, teenage pregnancies in Ecuador increased by2,3% annually.
I believe talking about sex is much more open now. Nonetheless, I also believe that one thing that characterizes our society is hypocrisy and double standards for sex related topics. For example, as a machista country, Ecuadorians assume or justify the fact that men can cheat without any problems whatsoever. In fact, cheating is considered to be “part of being a man, a macho”: “he can´t help himself, it is in his nature”. But then, when a woman cheats she is considered a prostitute.
In terms of relationships, I see that most of my peers carry on their relationships with care and responsibility. Yet, hypocrisy and prudishness still prevail in Ecuadorian society in spite of the fact that we live in the Twentieth first century. When it comes to teenagers and sex, parents, it seems, tend to ignore their children have an active sexual life. No, they seem to think, “That only happens if they marry”! Unfortunately, going on denial does not help. The high rate of teenage pregnancy is one of the outcomes. Due to our history, traditions and heritage, Ecuadorian society is still very touchy on the subject of sex. What could be handled as a natural aspect of a healthy adult life is still frowned upon or considered dirty by many young and older people. Again, lack of sex education due to our conservative culture explains such ignorant behaviors. However, as is many machista countries, jokes with sexual innuendos are inevitable.
In spite of the fact that our Constitution guarantees the rights of the gay and lesbian community, there is still a lot of prejudice against people with different lifestyles. Nevertheless, just as there are many conservative points of view, there is also a huge community of people who are open to new ideas and points of view and are therefore respectful of alternative lifestyles.
Regarding gender roles, things are also evolving. The expected role of women as housewives and mothers no longer persists. In fact, more and more female students seek college degrees and finish their college education before they consider having a family. As educated citizens, able to support themselves, many Ecuadorian women are conquering the right to choose what life they want to have.
Indeed, mentalities are changing in my country and this is being reflected in our every day life. In contrast to advertisements where women are usually portrayed as sexual objects to sell a product, here is a compilation of videos from an anti machismo campaign that was started by the government a couple of years ago. These videos had a positive response from Ecuadorians. They both question and criticize gender roles and machismo. Hopefully, the images will speak for themselves!
Duarte, Jonathan. “En Ecuador hay 122 mil madres adolescentes”. 10 Abr. 2013. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://www.metroecuador.com.ec/50663-en-ecuador-hay-122-mil-madres-adolescentes.html>
“Ecuador, entre países con mayor índice de embarazos adolescentes en América Latina”. 30 Oct. 2013. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://www.elcomercio.com.ec/sociedad/FPNU-embarazosadolescente-FPNU-AmericaLatina-Ecuador_0_1020498048.html>