Vardhan under fire again for 'ban sex education' quip

Faces flak from various quarters; forced to issue clarification
Last Updated 27 June 2014, 19:01 IST

Coming close on the heels of his controversial remark on condoms, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has stirred up another hornet’s nest with a ‘no sex education in school’ comment.

This time, he came in for a lot of flak not only from political parties, but even activists and the Twitterati. Vardhan’s opinion—posted on his website for weeks — was picked up by a section of the media in the wake of the condom controversy. Triggering a storm in the cyber world, the minister received harsh criticism from many, including writer Chetan Bhagat.

After such an angry backlash, Vardhan had to issue a clarification, denying that he proposes a ban on sex education as suggested by a newspaper through banner headlines.

“I am a medical professional who has embraced rationalism and I whole-heartedly support pedagogy that is scientific and culturally acceptable. Anything abrasive to common sensibilities and articulated as such by responsible persons should be discarded and replaced by consensually accepted learning processes,” said the minister, who is currently touring the US.

On his personal website — www.drharshvardhan.com, the BJP leader suggested 11 points on curriculum development under the heading of ‘Educational Vision for Delhi’.

Number five on the list is “so-called ‘sex education’ to be banned. Yoga to be made compulsory.” Vardhan is the saffron party’s chief ministerial candidate for Delhi.

Attempting to clear the air, he said it was in the context of the UPA government’s 2007 decision to introduce the Adolescence Education Programme in its original form.

“Even the chief ministers of UPA-ruled states had objected to it and subsequently it was modified,” Vardhan said.

“Crudity and graphic representation of culturally objectionable symbols as manifested in the UPA’s so-called sex education programme cannot be called sex education.

Sex education that builds societies free of gender discrimination, teenage pregnancy, HIV-AIDS proliferation and pornography addiction should be the goal,” explained the minister, who also held the education portfolio in the Delhi government between 1993 and 1998.

While Vardhan received support from BJP leader Prabhat Jha, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari felt “the thought process comes from some other generation and is backward”. CPI leader Annie Raja said such statements can trigger sexual violence.

Chetan Bhagat criticised the minister on Twitter. “Highly disturbed and disappointed by statements by a doctor health minister banning sex ed in schools. BJP at its regressive worst.

Youth backed the BJP this time to take India forward and open minds. Not to bring out their worst, backward and most outdated ideas,” he said.

(Published 27 June 2014, 19:01 IST)

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