Juan Carlos Hernández Meijueiro
This profile was prepared when Juan Carlos Hernández Meijueiro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Juan Carlos Hernández, a young promoter of sex education, is determined to bring about a fundamental change with regard to social attitudes toward sexuality. He envisions Hispanic cultures freed from overlays of machismo and religion that tend to infuse sex with associations of guilt and dominance. In his words, his aim is to "re-vindicate the search of pleasure for itself without the need to search for higher ends," such as reproduction, and to balance it with responsibility and respect. Half of the population of Juan Carlos's state of Veracruz are under nineteen years of age, and he has created classes for rural high school students and young urban parents there in a model poised to influence sex education in the national public school system.Mexican programs that address social problems related to sexual behaviors, such as sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence, typically emphasize abstinence and instill fear. Juan Carlos's strategy is to alter the underlying attitudes that ultimately lead to these problems. His work illustrates his understanding that the attitudes he seeks to change have been perpetuated through the family. While holding firm to the traditional values of community and commitment, in a fundamental way Juan Carlos advocates the liberation of children's sexual development from the private control of their parents and for it to be seen as a health issue for the entire society: "I think that sexual education is a social responsibility, not merely of the state or of the family; it is a matter of the mental health of the public, not of private morality."