India’s Promotion of Sex Education To Reduce Spread of HIV Causing Debate, Reuters Reports
Recent attempts by the Indian government to promote sex education in schools have caused a "morality debate" between some educators who say that sex education will reduce the spread of HIV and "critics who fear it will corrupt young minds," Reuters reports. India's government wants the country's 29 states and seven federally administered regions to fight the spread of HIV by promoting knowledge about safer-sex practices, according to Reuters. Some health experts have said that if steps are not taken to fight the spread of the virus, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country could increase from 5.7 million to more than 20 million by 2010, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, the course elements that have generated debate are discussions of homosexuality and descriptions of sex acts. The governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have banned sex education in public schools, saying that the education modules are too explicit and that some photographs are too graphic. The southern states of Karnataka and Kerala also are considering bans. Private schools in the states are able to continue the lessons but many have "watered them down" to avoid controversy, Reuters reports. About 86% of HIV cases in the country are transmitted through sexual intercourse.
Some proponents of the bans say the sex education courses, which are modeled on those taught in many Western countries, will make students absorb Western morals. Shajar Khan, a prominent student leader who opposes sex education in schools, said that HIV is "spreading because of cultural decadence and sexual anarchy." According to some analysts, conservative political parties have criticized sex education courses in part to make political gains by opposing the West. "Sex education does not mean you are encouraging sex, which is how it's interpreted," Renuka Chowdhury, India's minister for women and child development, said, adding, "Sex education is an insurance for your child. It will protect your child" (Mukherjee, Reuters, 5/14).