Naco chief slams Venkaiah report

NEW DELHI: “If all Indians are bramhcharis, then how come 30% of all HIV infections at present are within the age group of 15-24 years?”  

This was the reaction of K Sujatah Rao, director-general of National Aids Control Organisation K Sujatha Rao, to Rajya Sabha’s Committee on Petitions’ argument slamming the HRD ministry’s Adult Education Programme (AEP).

Comprising RS members and headed by BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu, the committee has recommended that there should be no sex education in schools. According to the committee, AEP is a “cleverly used euphemism whose real objective was to impart sex education in schools and promote promiscuity”.

The Times of India

  

Rao told TOI, “By educating the young about risky behaviour and crucial life skills like who to trust, what is a good touch and how faithfulness is important, we aren’t encouraging youngsters to have sex but actually telling them to cool off and be careful.”

Only a handful of states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, were against introducing AEP. Even some states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, which earlier had problems with AEP, have initiated it. After the prototype of the module was sent to states in July 2008, each state carried out six consultations to adapt it, said a Union health ministry official.

Calling the report “terribly sad”, Rao said the issue of AEP had now become political and would require a fresh push from the new government.

Women activists too criticized the stand taken by the parliamentary panel. They assert that sex education should not be looked at only as information regarding bodily contact but also deal with issues like reproductive health for young girls, reliable and factual information on HIV and AIDS.

“This is a very conservative outlook,” says Centre for Social Research director Ranjana Kumari.

“The committee is not looking at reality. In India, half the women get married before 15 years of age. In urban areas in some instances, pre-marital sex is a reality. In such a situation, it is important that children are given a scientific understanding of sex and other consequences like teenage pregnancy, recognizing wrong contact and exploitative relationships within the family,” she added.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Sandhya Bajaj said that unless children and parents are aware of the negative consequences of child marriage, and the lurking dangers of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, there could be little headway in fulfilling child rights.

“Children should be given moral and health education in schools as part of their course curriculum,” she said.

Sources said the committee had problems about showing images of the human body. The module was then reworked with minimal usage of the phrase sexual intercourse.

A controversial flip chart used by teachers to explain information on HIV/AIDS, with pictures of the reproductive anatomy of boys and girls, was omitted. Special emphasis was given to the language used in the manual.

Among the course elements that had generated much heat were discussions on homosexuality and descriptions of sexual acts, including masturbation. They have now been dropped.

A survey conducted by NACO among 40,000 Indians had revealed that 8.4% had non-regular sexual partners in the past six months, putting them at risk of contracting infections.

Less than half of the sexually active adolescents used condoms consistently.

According to WHO, early sex education delays the start of sexual activity, reduces sexual activity among young people and encourages those already sexually active to have safer sex.

Researchers have found no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased sexual activity.

In India, about 86% of HIV infections occur through sexual intercourse.

  



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