Keep ‘sex’ out of sex education, HRD ministry tells expert panel

November 1, 2016

IndiaToday.in  | Edited by Vishakha Saxena
New Delhi, October 24, 2016 | UPDATED 19:05 IST

The Human Resource Development ministry forced an expert panel to shorten its recommendations on sex education to just one sentence, to avoid use of words ‘sex’ and sexual’ in the document.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the original draft — submitted in May — mentioned the word “sexual” twice. Smriti Irani was heading the ministry at the time.

“They said that words like ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ could not be allowed and the section had to be condensed into just one sentence,” a source told the English daily.

 CHANGES THAT WERE MADE

According to the report, the panel’s original draft contained half a page on adolescent education, and advocated more lessons against unprotected sex. The original draft addressed “the health of adolescents, particularly the reproductive and sexual health needs,” as “they are deprived of appropriate information” due to its culturally ‘sensitive’ nature.

It noted “their understanding guided predominantly by myth and misconception, (was) making them vulnerable to drug/substance abuse and HIV/AIDS transmission”. As a solution, the draft proposed that adolescents be provided with “age-appropriate context intervention focused on reproductive and sexual health concerns, including HIV/AIDS and drug and substance abuse”.

This section on adolescent education has now been reduced to: “The Adolescent Education Programme and National Population Education Programme need to be extended to all schools as early as possible.”

PANEL MEMBERS HAVE THEIR SAY

Another panel member told The Telegraph — on the condition of anonymity — that the committee complied with the ministry’s ‘advice’ because it ‘agreed’ that the word “sexual” might “offend” people.

“We did not make it an issue because the policy’s focus was not on adolescent education: it’s a broad document on the entire subject of education,” the panel member told the newspaper, adding that the implementing agencies could always expand the one-sentence recommendation as they felt fit.

Former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, who was heading the committee, declined to comment.

THE FINAL DOCUMENT

The final document does use the word “sex” once but only to say “all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex would have access to education of a comparable quality up to a given level”.

The 220-page final policy document was to be sent to the various state governments and school boards. The ministry has, however, declined to accept the recommendations, saying ‘they would be treated as inputs’.