India: Teachers' unions condemn ban on sex education
In March the state government of Maharashtra, India announced its intention to ban sex education in schools across the state. The Indian teachers' union AIFTO immediately condemned the move as a "retrograde step in the otherwise progressive state of Maharashtra." If the ban goes through, the state will join Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala in denying children a crucial component of their education.
In June of this year, a new adolescent education programme was to have been introduced to schools in the state of Maharashtra in the interest of protecting young people (13-18 year olds) from the threat of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. The government has now shelved these plans in response to accusations from parties within the legislature that sex education in schools is an attack on Indian values.
AIFTO spokesperson Ramesh Joshi said that in moving to ban sex education in schools, elected representatives in the state legislature were effectively “turning the clock back.” He reminded EI that family planning education was introduced to the state as early as 1905. Other states across the Indian subcontinent followed suit.
Ramesh stated that this latest attempt to reverse the developments made in education could only be described as “retrograde” and “reprehensible.” Furthermore, the allegation that the new syllabus amounted to an effort to impose western culture could not be accepted, given that sex education is a matter of life and death.
Since coming out with these statements, Joshi has been joined by many other concerned citizens in Maharashtra who were equally disturbed by the news. Their calls for a reconsideration of the ban have not gone unheard. The government has now declared its intention to appoint a committee and to settle the issue before the new academic year begins in June. EI calls upon its affiliated unions at the state level in India to join the AIFTO in their efforts to maintain sex education in schools and to allow teachers to continue their work towards “spreading the word and not the virus.”
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