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The Kerala sex education row
February 16, 2007 16:00 IST
Sex education for school children, the format of which is controversial across the world, has kicked up a row in Kerala and has forced the government to temporarily shelve the proposed Adolescent Education Programme prescribed by UNICEF.
A section of teachers and student outfits have come out against the handbook on sex education prepared for children studying in ninth and eleventh standards, alleging the content it discussed bordered on pornography.
Education Minister M A Baby said that necessary changes would be made in the curriculum to suit the value system in Kerala. Sources in the minister's office told PTI that the state would take up the programme only after a detailed consideration by the Curriculum Steering Committee.
The handbook, aimed at imparting knowledge about sex and adolescence, is being implemented at the national level by NCERT. The UNICEF programme for Third World countries is against the backdrop of the spread of AIDS, which has given a new sense of urgency to sex education.
In Kerala, the State Council for Educational Research and Training is entrusted with the implementation of the programme. A section of teachers, who had already been trained at the SCERT, had reportedly expressed their unwillingness to teach the subject in the prescribed mode.
The handbook has three parts including sex and adolescence, HIV and human skills. The HIV part, it is alleged, breaks down pre-existing notions of modesty and encourage acceptance of practices like premarital sex.
The syllabus for HIV education lays more focus on use of condoms and 'safe sex' rather than teaching the students about moral values in society. "The handbook is all about sexual perversion. It creates the impression that everything is all right if you use condoms properly," Shajar Khan, secretary of the All India Democratic Students Organisation, the outfit which had strongly come out against the programme, said.
No talks had been held with academicians, teachers or students before SCERT decided to go ahead with the programme, says Khan. "Several emotional questions are left unanswered." The third part of the syllabus, which includes more controversial contents, is about the interaction between parents and children on every aspect of sex.
Teachers are asked to play the role of parents and ask questions on sex to students. Educationists say the syllabus was ill conceived without taking into account the sacred nature of student- teacher relationship in society and their psychology.
They point out that subjects like anatomy of human body, reproductive mechanism and hormonal changes were already being taught at the higher secondary level. Further education on sex, for providing knowledge to adolescents to liberate themselves from socially organised sexual oppression, should be formulated within the framework of rules governing society, they say.
The aim of sex education should be to make adolescents more informed about their personal sexual activity, sexual health and overall healthcare, experts say, while teachers want the syllabus for the same to be prescribed in a different fashion.