|6 states in India ban sex ed to preserve culture
Country has most HIV patients; disease unheard of by 40 percent of women
NEW DELHI, India - Banning sex education on the grounds that it offends Indian sensibilities puts young lives at risk and jeopardizes the fight against AIDS, a senior health official said.
Six states in India, which has the most people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, have banned sex education for adolescents or refused to implement the curriculum, saying the course material was too explicit or that it was against Indian culture.
Some politicians accuse educators of encouraging permissiveness among young people.
“We are not giving ideas to young people,” National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) chief Sujatha Rao said. “They are already there.”
“Some people are in denial that young people experiment with sex. They need to get real,” she told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Rao’s comments came before the cabinet approved on Thursday a plan that envisages spending 116 billion rupees ($2.8 billion) over the next five years in its most ambitious anti-AIDS project yet.
The plan for 2007-2012 will focus on prevention and increasing the number of people on first-line AIDS drugs. The government plans to provide 80 billion rupees and the rest will come from foreign donors like the World Bank.
India has the world’s highest caseload for HIV/AIDS with 5.7 million HIV-positive people, according to the United Nations. But sex is not spoken about openly in most parts of the country.
An India Today magazine survey last year showed one in four Indian women ages 18 to 30 in 11 cities had sex before marriage.
Yet over 40 percent of all Indian women have not heard of AIDS, creating a dangerous combination of lack of knowledge and greater sexual activity.
“There will be a huge negative impact if you don’t provide sex education, given the vulnerability of young people to the virus,” Rao said earlier, addressing MPs who are also doctors.
“Are you more concerned about culture than the lives of young people?” she said.
The states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have banned or refused to implement sex education curriculum introduced last year.
The Hindu nationalist government in Madhya Pradesh said sex education had “no place in Indian culture” and plans to introduce yoga in schools instead.
India has 165,000 reported AIDS cases of which around 50,000 are in the age group of 15-29 years.
“We are worried about our young people,” Rao said.
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka? These aren't even backwards/tribal states. These are supposed to be the advanced areas, economically and culturally, of the "New India".