The Human Resource Development Ministry under Arjun Singh has taken a decision to introduce sex education to children in all schools affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education from the current academic year, starting from June 2007. Many states have already refused to introduce sex education in their schools due to adverse public opinion to the move. These states are Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh etc.
The policy to expose ?minor and underage? boys and girls to sex education in classrooms not only violates Vedic principles but also constitutes health hazard to them and breaches provisions of the Indian Penal Code exposing unsuspecting teachers to penal actions.
Government is justifying this policy on specious pretext of preventing the spread of AIDS by creating a scare of epidemic proportions. For anti-AIDS projects an amount of Rs 11,600 crores has been approved over 2007 to 2012 out of which Rs 8000 crore will be given by the Govt of India; and, the rest by foreign donors. This disease does not spread from ignorance of sex as the HRD Minister would like us to believe but by uncontrolled sex with multiple partners. The best policy is the traditional Hindu norm to keep away our teenagers from indulging into any sex till they are in position to make mature and informed decisions.
The website of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) informs that the number of HIV-infected cases was 5.13 million in 2004 and 5.21million in 2005 showing that its spread was not galloping; and, that, India continues to be in the category of low-prevalence countries with overall prevalence of less than one per cent. But this figure is disputed.
Professor James Chin of the University of California at Berkeley is a former Chief of the Surveillance, Forecasting, and Impact Assessment Unit of the Global Programme on AIDS of the World Health Organisation. According to him, there is no imminent threat of another wave of HIV infections; and that AIDS is now in its post-epidemic phase. Many myths and misconceptions about the AIDS pandemic, he said, are spread by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other mainstream AIDS agencies and activists [UNFPA], either unintentionally, out of ignorance or intentionally by distortion or exaggeration?including fear of a generalised epidemic (to justify their own jobs, Parkinson'slaw). Pharmaceutical companies and medical suppliers also have vested interests to generate such a scare. According to Prof Chin the UNAIDS asserted in March 2007, that only aggressive HIV/AIDS prevention programmes?especially directed at youth?can prevent the eruption of heterosexual HIV epidemics where prevalence is currently low.
On November 16, 2005 the Supreme Court of India decided that ?sex education? in schools cannot be brought under the ambit of fundamental rights by making it a part of the right to education. ?We cannot make it (sex education) a fundamental right,? a bench comprising Justice Ruma Pal and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan said while dealing with a public interest litigation, which had suggested making sex education in schools compulsory.
Perusal of the course contents, its fact sheet and the Handbook for Teachers [Adolescent Education Programme] as brought out by the Department of Education, Delhi Govt, shows that in class rooms teachers will ask one girl and one boy to come forward as volunteers and touch each other'sbody till he or she felt uncomfortable. What happens if some boys and girls develop habit, fancy and taste of such touching and practise it after teacher has left the classroom as ?practicals?? In all the countries where I served as Ambassador including the most permissive Finland I never came across such education where teachers are asking minor students to touch each other intimately, that, too, in the classroom.
The idea is so outrageous that if forced to do so in the class, the parents can file criminal complaint against the teacher under Section 354 (outraging the modesty of woman) and/or under Section 355 (dishonouring a person) of the Indian Penal Code carrying prison term up to two years. Section 509 of the IPC (intruding upon the privacy of women, by words or gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman) may also get attracted.
A teacher may plead that he had sought volunteers but consent of a minor in the eyes of law is no consent at all. Touching a female intimately does constitute outraging her modesty. Under Section 10 of the IPC, woman is a female of any age. Further, a teacher inside the class room exercises ?command and control? over students so charge against teacher will get aggravated carrying ?custodial? burden too. Senior officers of the education departments associated with this policy may face courts as ?abettors?.
If the girl happened to be a Muslim and she is touched in the classroom by a Hindu boy, or, vice versa, it may trigger communal tension. A Sunni boy touching a Shia girl or vice versa will have similar potential. As the burden of controlling riots falls exclusively on shoulders of chief ministers, they will be well advised to have closer looks at this half-baked policy. A ?progressive? chief minister opting for Arjun'ssex education will be sowing seeds of trouble in his province.
Social conditions and standards of public health prevailing in India and the developed world are not similar. In Europe teenagers are expected to move out of parent'shomes and live on their own on doles and accommodation which they are entitled to receive from local authorities. Therefore, results of the developed world cannot be copied in Indian context where children stay with parents till married and thereafter.
The Handbook for Teachers as published by the Delhi Govt [Volume I, page 8] informs that masturbation is a physiological need and is neither bad nor harmful to health. As we know about 26 per cent Indians live below poverty line. Their children are not as well fed as children in the developed countries. This is an invitation to bad health and diseases such as TB, inviting action against HRD Minister Arjun Singh and other education authorities under chapter XIV of the IPC, especially Section 269. It is not a hypothetical scenario as India has more new TB cases annually than any other country, ranking first among the 22 high-burden TB countries worldwide according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global TB Report 2006. TB remains one of the leading infectious causes of mortality in India, resulting in 364,000 deaths annually. There were more than 1.8 million new TB cases in India in 2004.
Showing naked figures of male and female with graphic descriptions of genetalia to minor children may invoke penal actions against teachers under Section 292 of the IPC. Teachers must not be lured or forced to breach the boundaries set by the IPC.
Vedas have set the target of one hundred year disease-free life span for its followers (shatamjivet) and, with this objective, have divided our life span into four states?Brahma-charya (first twenty-five years to build the body, mind and study), Grihasthya (married life & household affairs etc.), Vanaprastha (semi-retired life focusing on social works rather than household) and Sannyas (retired spiritual life). Hindu heritage, thus, does not permit exposure of children to sex that is why many Hindus are opposing this policy of Arjun Singh.
Rather than teaching sexology, anatomy and physically touching each other in classrooms, teenagers at the maximum may be exposed to the same literature which is routinely issued by the public health authorities in newspapers about AIDS, how it spreads and its preventions. Detailed exposure to sex education and anatomy may be taught at graduate level when a student is no more a minor. Further the term ?sex education? should be avoided as it carries obscene hints.
After all, the education policy like any other good policy must conform to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
[The writer recently retired in the rank of Secretary to the Govt of India in the Indian Foreign Service (1971 batch).]