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Sex education to be filtered

Hard words will find no mention in a new sex education module being devised by the National AIDS Control Organisation for school students in India.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 20, 2008 06:33 PM IST

"Intercourse" and "masturbation" are words that will find no mention in a new sex education module being devised for school students in India, large parts of which remain highly conservative.

Unlike last time, there will be no "graphic" flip charts either. The new adolescent education programme may roll out in November.

The officials behind it are hoping there will be no hue and cry like last time when six states banned it, saying it was too explicit and would corrupt the minds of the young.

"This time we have undertaken a series of consultations, involving conservative as well as progressive people and groups before finalising the module," National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) director general Sujatha Rao told IANS.

"Words like 'intercourse' and 'masturbation' will not be mentioned as we are not teaching them the Kama Sutra," Rao clarified. Public opinion will also be sought this time, she said.

The decision to introduce sex education in India's schools was aimed primarily at creating awareness about HIV/AIDS, with the country being home to 2.5 million patients of the disease. But the module created a furore.

One of the main points of objection was a flip chart prepared jointly by Unicef and government-controlled NACO for teachers. But educationists themselves turned against it.

After states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka banned the programme, NACO formed a committee last year and after endless parleys managed to finalise a new tool kit.

Agreeing that the earlier texts had "too much sex", Rao said the current one would be more interactive and user-friendly, with not too many illustrations and drawings.

Though safe sex tools like condoms will be mentioned, the focus will be on "abstaining".

Having burnt its hands earlier, NACO said this time it would first pass the module to each state education department for a feedback.

"We went through an elaborate consultation process to prepare the toolkit. The final prototype (of the module) will be ready by July and will be sent to state education secretaries for their feedback, which we will consider."

"The module will not have any explicit details about sex and sexuality and will rather discuss the physical changes a girl or boy goes through. It will go through various stages before being finalised," Rao told IANS.

Pitching for the module, Rao said: "It is a well-done module that is required for the age group of 15 to 19 years. This is the time when they need to understand about respecting relationships."

The committee has prepared three sets of materials. While the teachers' handbook is ready, the facilitators and the trainers' handbook will be ready by June 25.

After the state governments approve the tool-kit, their education departments will be asked to interact with parents, teachers and NGOs.

"We can't hide from children such things when they are seeing it all on television. They are not a bunch of idiots living on an island. We can't be hypocritical and should not forget that 15 per cent are teenage pregnancies," she added.

Parents, teachers, child psychologists, members from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) were part of the exercise.

"In education, one cannot be diplomatic or careful. We are addressing the concerns of adolescents through these kits. The objective is to provide them with information and knowledge, which influences their attitudes and values," said J L Pandey, former director of NCERT and a member of the committee.

"This would also create awareness among them about risky behaviour and to be a responsible person."

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