Civil society groups are aghast at a parliamentary panel’s observation that sex education and sex before marriage is “unethical, unhealthy and immoral”.
The Parliamentary Committee on Petitions has even urged the government to withdraw the Adolescent Education Programme introduced in schools last year. The committee headed by the BJP’s M. Venkaiah Naidu includes members from the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Left parties.
The panel had submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha after a petition was filed by Delhi parent Asha Sharma and Mumbai schoolteacher Pratiba Naithani. Both had contended that the curriculum would corrupt India’s youth and lead to single parent families.
Said Indira Jaisingh, senior advocate and head of Delhi-based think tank Lawyers’ Collective, “It is not proper comment. There is nothing illegal in having sex before marriage.”
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research believes that linking pre-marital sex with morality is wrong. “It is a decision of an individual and one should respect it,” she said. “Pre-marital sex is happening and we should accept the reality,” she said, emphasising on improving children’s knowledge of protection required against sexually transmitted diseases.
The committee came to its conclusions after discussing the matter with educationists, officials from the HRD ministry and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). It blamed the ministry for failing to prevent introduction of a contentious syllabus in schools.
The committee said the new curriculum should only include education about hygiene and physiological changes taking place in adolescents, especially girls.
The committee said the curriculum should commence from the 8th class and include moral education and personality and character development.
Even though the legal age of marriage is 21 for men and 18 for women, the law debars consensual sex before 16. The Indian Penal Code considers having sex with a girl below 16 as rape. Various studies have shown a growing trend of teenagers having sex. The NACO has also found that a large number of young men engage in casual sex with sex workers.