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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 13:26 GMT
Section 28 - should it be repealed?

Do you think it is appropriate for children to learn about gay relationships in the classroom?

There are moves afoot to repeal Section 28, a law created by the Tories in 1986 containing a clause banning the promotion of homosexual relationships by schools.

Reform moves are currently causing a stir in Scotland, and the issue is set to be debated across the UK.

Does the law protect our children or encourage ignorance and prejudice? What do you think schools should be telling pupils about relationships? Send us your views and experiences.

Your Reaction

I'm bisexual and a very active parent with two children in secondary school. As it is, my children are learning from their friends to use the term "gay" as an insult, but the teachers are unable to correct this prejudice because of Section 28. Gay helplines and support groups are also disenfranchised by this clause. I personally am in favour of adequate education for my children and I want my taxes to be spent on community groups judged solely on whether the work they do in the community is valuable, and not on whether they promote the idea that the love in a sexual relationship matters more than the gender of the partners.
Sherilyn Sidaway, UK

Section 28 was introduced by the Tory government in the knee-jerk reaction this country always tend to adopt. Other European States do not have such a "clause", and in fact being homosexuality is treated in just the same way as heterosexuality - right to get married, right to adopt, right to exist and integrate in a modern society. What this country needs is a big kick up the backside, to make people aware of the different lifestyles that exist in human society. How dare the bigoted say that information about an alternative lifestyle turns them the other way.
Steve, London, UK

People should remember the reason Section 28 was brought in - the dissemination of disgusting literature to our children by loony left education authorities. Section 28 does not prevent rational discussion of human sexuality in lessons and certainly does not prevent a school from performing the duty of preventing bullying.
Richard Marriott, England

It was with some embarrassment and dismay that the debate over Section 28 is being discussed in terms of prejudice and not on civil rights . I thought Christianity was about inclusion not exclusion .It makes me embarrassed to be Catholic but as every thinking Catholic knows the Church has becoming more embarrassing by the day. I can only hope that the politicians have the balls to force through the repeal of section 28 for the good of the ignorant.
Robert ex-pat, Australia

I think it's ridiculous to think that people's sexuality is a result of somehow being "indoctrinated by promotion". If that were true, how come after being faced through my whole life with the endless "promotion of heterosexuality" in films, TV and magazines, did I still manage to turn out happily gay?
Mark Robinson, England

This is all about gesture politics - there hasn't been a single prosecution under Section 28, I believe, so the whole thing is a waste of time. Also, to my mind, the restrictions S-28 places on what may be put in a Library by themselves make it worthy of repeal. All the emotive hot air about "our children" seems just that - they're either bullied or kept in ignorance or both, by this Act. Surely no one actually seriously expects gayness to be "taught" as a "good thing" by anyone. (Reading other comments, it seems as if most of the keep-Section 28 writers are actually objecting to homosexuality itself - which is not the issue).
P Davis, UK

It definitely should be replaced. At the moment we are teaching to double standards. Children are told of the importance of tolerance and understanding, but as long as this sickening predjudice exists we are still condoning ignorance and hatred. We need education to be based on unbiased information, which we won't get until this kind of clause is replaced.
Lizzie, UK

Forgive me, but I thought we teach our children about compassion, consideration of other people's points of view, to accept other people for who they are as people...not what they do behind closed doors...Loving another person and sharing you life with them is what western societies are about - or so I thought.
Alison, Canada

As a heterosexual man I am appalled at the bigotry this whole situation has inflamed, particular from some of our national newspapers, who should hang their heads in shame for the hatred and ignorance they are encouraging. Say for example 15% of our society is gay then why shouldn't 15% of sex education time be allotted to discuss gay sex? It's ok to promote heterosexuality 100% of the time but not give gay sex education its acceptable allotment of time? Are we living in the dark ages here?
Peter Wilson, UK

I do not have an issue with children being informed regarding sexuality. As long as the information provided is informative and taught in a compassionate manner there should not be an issue. Hopefully this will educate our children so that they are not raised as bigots who react irrationally to things they do not understand.
Pauline Hearn, UK

The notion that anyone is trying to convert straight kids into gay kids is just ridiculous. I suppose it's fairly routine for electioneering self-appointed guardians of public morals to demonise their opponents in this way. All that clause 28 has ever stopped is teachers and social workers providing young gay people (and those who, in the hormonal maelstrom of puberty, are sexually confused) with the straight answers and support they often desperately need. I'm gay and happy, and this lifestyle was never promoted or marketed at me. However, upon finding that this was the way I am, it was a lifeline (pre Clause 28) to be able to cry on the shoulder and talk through my worries with an understanding teacher.
Julian Church, UK

Schools have a valuable role here, in spreading the truth (however unpopular).

Roger Burg, UK
One parent below has taught his children that gay relationships are characterised by anal intercourse. I can assure him that lesbians do NOT commit anal intercourse together, any more than most male homosexual couples. Perhaps schools have a valuable role here, in spreading the truth (however unpopular).
Roger Burg, UK

The only thing section 28 prevents from being promoted is tolerance. If it is repealed then teachers will be able to discuss homosexuality along with all the other lifestyles that are rationally discussed within classes. Let teenagers make informed decisions, not gain bigoted views from ignorance and hearsay.
Rob, UK

Let teenagers make informed decisions, not gain bigoted views from ignorance and hearsay.

Rob, UK
Personally, I believe that Section 28 is redundant now anyway. I am gay, and I had a really hard time through school, until I found the number of a local support line, this was before I left school. I also got a lot of help of the internet. It's not difficult for a kid who has web access to get as much help to answer their questions over sexuality, without anyone else knowing.
Richard, UK

I just read the actual text of section 28 and it has disgusted me. For a start you can't promote homosexuality. Teachers cannot tell kids what to do with their lives. If they could, we would be turning out hundreds of doctors and lawyers etc, each year. Criminals aren't taught how to mug old ladies in school are they?
Paul Beer, England

Teachers cannot tell kids what to do with their lives. If they could, we would be turning out hundreds of doctors and lawyers etc, each year

Paul Beer, England
I find it very interesting that in today's society people can still display such bigotry towards other members of society and that this bigotry can be formalised in law. History has shown that anyone that segregates society or cultures into groups is only isolating themselves in the long run. The fact that people support section 28 because they fear it will convert people into homosexuals is ludicrous. Why would anyone choose to be homosexual? Why would they choose to be cultural outcasts, demonised and bullied by a mainly heterosexual society? When was the last time you made a conscientious decision to find someone attractive? Wasn't it just 'a feeling' or 'a sudden gut reaction' that you didn't have any choice in, you just felt it. People have a right to follow their own path unhindered. As long as it doesn't affect other people's right's to do the same, there isn't a problem.
Jonathan Rymel, England

Society should be more tolerant and we deserve better than much of the ill educated nonsense that has passed for comment on this subject over the last few weeks.
Colin Dingwall, Scotland

To suggest that Britain is a Christian society is ludicrous. The Church of England may be part of the state but in terms of the actual population there are more atheists, agnostics and people of other faiths than those people who claim to be Christians. To use an article of faith devoid of any credible evidence to repress human beings of a particular sexuality is immoral. Furthermore there does appear to be a great deal of ignorance and concealed homophobia within the supporters of Section 28. Its repeal will not "promote" homosexuality, it will allow children to learn about things that actually exist. Have we degenerated to such a level that whenever a perceived problem arises we simply stick our heads in the sand and argue "because God says so"?
Robin, Britain

Section 28 is unethical, misguided, and bigoted. The only people who need it are those who can think no further than their own prejudices.
George, UK

Clause 28 is an anachronistic, anti-democratic measure which should be swept away at the earliest possible opportunity. The issue of homosexuality is like any other - there needs to be open discussion, and people need to be allowed to draw their own conclusions.
Dr. D.J. Picton, England

It has been shown that most of the Scottish people, the silent majority, are in agreement that section 28 must stay and do not believe that homosexuality should be promoted to children as some perfectly normal 'lifestyle' choice. The school's role in the anatomy/biology class is to explain the mechanics of reproduction, full-stop.
Cameron, Scotland

I am very concerned at the Christian propaganda that my children are subjected to at school. One of my girls was told that god was watching her from a hole in the ceiling. She was very frightened by that! What about banning the "promotion" of bigoted ignorant religious garbage in Scottish schools?
Tom, Scotland

If you teach a course in homosexuality exactly what are you going to teach?
James Hall, USA

It is a tragedy of British society that it is sad enough to permit bigotry to be legitimised in the classroom through this sort of abuse of law.

John Leeson, UK
I am astonished at the support there still seems to be for retaining S28. It is a very pernicious piece of law in that the 'promotion' of homosexuality has never been practised in schools and is never likely to be. The intent of S28 is purely to instil enough fear of being assumed to be promoting homosexuality for legitimate teaching about it to be prevented.
It is a licence for the promotion of prejudice and bullying of the worst sort. It is a tragedy of British society that it is sad enough to permit bigotry to be legitimised in the classroom through this sort of abuse of law. The existence of S28 has damaged the law and the reputation of the UK as a haven of human rights.
John Leeson, UK

The idea that homosexuality was being - or, indeed, CAN be 'promoted', is paranoid and unrealistic. Nobody can be persuaded or 'recruited' to be gay - or heterosexual for that matter. I'm gay. I don't want homosexuality 'promoted'. It doesn't need to be 'promoted' - those who are gay, are gay and those who are not, are not.
It is never appropriate for pornography to be present in schools, whether heterosexual or homosexual. But factual sex education in our schools is vital and, yes, that includes homosexuality. Young people who may be coming to terms with homosexuality are just as in need of information as heterosexual children. We should be equal before the law, and that includes in schools. We don't want preferential treatment, we don't want special rights. We just want the same opportunities as our heterosexual friends.
Jonathan Best, UK

Section 28 does not have any affect whatsoever on the ability of any teacher or any school to talk about homosexuality. And it certainly has no effect on their ability to deal with bullying of any sort. What Section 28 does is to stop local authorities (the only entity addressed in the clause) from spending tax payers' money promoting homosexuality.
Gay groups deny that homosexuality can be promoted. This is patently ridiculous. It is the same as saying that teaching has no effect on children. Why do we have schools in the first place if we believe that what we teach children makes no difference to their behaviour?
Simon Calvert, UK

It should not be taught in schools. I think it would promote being gay for it to be taught in schools. My feelings on this are very strong and the voice of the people should be listened to.
L MCM, Scotland

Section 28 doesn't prevent the "promotion" of homosexuality, it prevents all rational discussion within our classrooms and any hope of support for the thousands of gay and lesbian children in the UK, who like myself, grow up in a society that continually 'promotes' heterosexuality.
Richard, UK

It is the responsibility of parents and NOT that of the State.

Christina Kish, Canada
Sexuality of any kind is a very delicate subject to approach in the classroom. It is the responsibility of parents and NOT that of the State to expose children to an adequate amount of information regarding both heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Christina Kish, Canada

Ignorance and bigotry are the only winners of Section 28. People are not "converted" to homosexuality, as they are to Christianity. Even the pope has recognised that people are born gay and is part of the way god created them.
Section 28 merely perpetuates violence and intolerance in our society, a very unChristian stance. Our society can only progress when all are treated equally and not condemned for being themselves.
David O'Keeffe, Australia

Which of these teachers is breaking the law?
Teacher A: Hey, I think tongue piercing is really cool. A prize for the best piercing next week.
Teacher B: As a social experiment try swearing at your parents and note down their reactions as your homework.
Teacher C: Don't bully John. Gay people are entitled to love and respect like all other human beings.
Andy, UK

Schools should not have to teach children about life. If they are expected to do so then they should not be subject to pressure from minority groups to propagate their views. If society has fallen to the level where there are not accepted views then we are in a sorry state. This does not mean that help should not be given to those who have doubts about their sexuality.
Tom Healey, UK

Even though I am a semi-closeted lesbian, I am against the scrapping of Clause 28.

Anonymous, England
Even though I am a semi-closeted lesbian, (friends know, family don't and never will), I am against the scrapping of Clause 28. I hope to become a teacher eventually, and I think that the use of the term "promoting" is the cause of the trouble. Promoting is advertising: "Try it: you might like it", and heterosexual parents usually object to that. BUT: Promoting TOLERANCE- no-one should object to that.
I don't want to be categorised by my sexuality (or my religion or my physical ability - I'm Jewish and visually-impaired), but I find this is often the case and it is the reason why I refuse to come out to my parents. Sex is just a small part of my life, and I think that for a teenager, who is afraid to categorise him/herself as being different from his/her classmates (as I was when I was at that age), talking in detail about homosexual sex in the classroom would be even more traumatic. Promoting tolerance of people who are different from yourself is the solution to the problem.
Anonymous, England

Keep Section 28 on the Statute. It protects children from the misinformation and propaganda that the homosexual lobby subject us to on a constant basis. If it is removed, we are doing a great disservice to our children.
David McEwan, USA

I am a hetrosexual man who is happily married and about to become a parent for the first time. I do not consider myself homophobic in any way. I do not believe that schools should "promote" homosexuality or for that matter "hetrosexuality" or any other style of relationship. I believe that the role of the school is to make available information to help childeren learn what they need to be well integrated into modern society. Homosexuality is an important part of that society. I think that by ignoring the topic in schools, we risk raising ignorant and possibly predudiced children, which would not bode well for the future.
Paul Barker, UK

Do Brian Souter and Cardinal Winning et al. really argue that children can be 'turned' gay by their teachers, or anyone else?

James Savage, UK
I am a gay man, aged 21, brought up in the school system with section 28 in force. Homosexuality was a topic rarely mentioned in class, either in a positive or negative light. I was gay all along, and nothing could have persuaded me otherwise. Homosexuality is a fact as much as being left or right handed. Do Brian Souter and Cardinal Winning et al. really argue that children can be 'turned' gay by their teachers, or anyone else?
James Savage, UK

It is not bigotry to be resolutely against the existence of homosexuality. I myself say live and let live but as much as I respect the views of homosexuals, I equally respect the views of those of a more conservative leaning. The real subject here is not homosexuality but the fact that some teachers cannot be trusted to give homosexuality a proper exposure to children - that it is a minority trait and hence not normal and not conducive to the survival of the human race. I am sure many in the teaching profession would be responsible but we have seen the damage that a minority of teachers caught up in a wave of left-wing ideological claptrap has done to our education system - this is the real argument.
James, UK

Section 28 should never have been introduced in the first place - it clearly reflects bigotry and ignorance. Why should gay people of any age be prejudiced? All Section 28 encourages is intolerance - Children must learn to be tolerant of anyone and everyone regardless of sexual preference. Children must have the choice and shouldn't be denied the right to know about alternative lifestyles - not just to hear gossip or abuse in the playground. Let the kids to make up their own minds. Do we really want a future generation of bigots - we have enough of them at the moment.
Martin Cairns, Germany

Schools should be giving children an education and that involves learning about different religions, cultures, sexuality. Keeping sexuality in the closet is only going to cause more problems in the long run.
Simon, England

I am a Christian who finds no support in the Bible for homophobia

David Haymes, UK
I am a Christian who finds no support in the Bible for homophobia. Section 28 has prevented schools from providing support to lesbian and gay youth. The idea that abolition will lead to an explosion of homosexuality in schools is a fantasy dreamed up by ignorant people suffering a compassion deficit.
David Haymes, UK

I have to question the motives of gay men and women who want to see children taught about homosexuality I feel that perhaps they know that their chosen lifestyle is wrong and seek to justify themselves by attempting to corrupt the minds of the very young.
Andrew, Scotland

Do people think that if Section 28 is lifted, their precious children will suddenly be taught to be gay? Your children will be gay, or not, and nothing will affect that. The only difference is that without this ignorant, archaic legislation, kids can learn that being gay is not some kind of illness. Those that do turn out to be gay will hopefully be at ease with it, and those who aren't will not have been taught to hate. Do people really think that scrapping this law will endanger their children? Look beyond the emotional rhetoric - Section 28 is based on ignorance and is an embarrassment to what is supposedly a modern society.
Caspar, UK

I wish to god that a teacher had explained to me that my thoughts and feelings were perfectly natural - WHICH THEY ARE!

Mike Buckley, UK
Only a gay person, as I am can explain the pain and heartache that you go through as a child at the age of 10 realising that 'something is different' about you. I wish to god that a teacher had explained to me that my thoughts and feelings were perfectly natural - WHICH THEY ARE! Teachers should be allowed to discuss the facts of homosexuality with their pupils and not be scared of a ridiculous 'Thatcherite' law.
Mike Buckley, UK

The law should be repealed to teach children to be sympathetic and understanding. However there is no reason to actively promote homosexuality. In the case of men, all the qualities we could possibly want in a partner exist in women in greater abundance. Humility, sensitivity and sexual allure - just to name a few. Opposites attract and are more attractive, providing a beautiful, natural and healthy balance.
Simon Cameron, UK

Most decent Scottish people want to see the back of section 28 as a parent I want my children to know about homosexuality as this is a part of the modern world. I do not want my children infected with the bigotry that lies behind this nasty law which prevents teachers telling the full truth.
J.Tapp, Scotland

Section 28 is the worst piece of legislation that has been passed during my lifetime. I'm 52 with two gay children and my children deserve better than to suffer at the hands of heterosexual children who are bigots through ignorance. The concept of being able to promote one kind of sexuality is ridiculous.
Dave Pierce-Mariner, UK

If someone feels they are gay then fair enough, but that is no reason to teach the other kids about it.

Jim McDonnell, Scotland
I feel strongly against the dropping of section 28. I am by no means a homophobic although I do not agree with gay relationships. I feel that promoting homosexual activities in school is definitely not a good idea. For a start when children are at school they are at the age of experimenting and they could after hearing about it in school wish to do so, something that they could regret for the rest of their lives. If someone feels they are gay then fair enough, but that is no reason to teach the other kids about it. I have two children of 10 & 8 and I would go mad if any teacher started preaching about gays in their classrooms
Jim McDonnell, Scotland

Like most people reading this, I don't really know what Section 28 says. What I object to is this sudden outcry from individuals claiming that the Scottish people will never stand for this kind of thing.
I'm proud to say that we are far more tolerant than this moral minority would have you believe, and hope that Mr Souter's money has no effect on what happens with Section 28.
I think allowing rich businessmen and moral minority outcries to set Scottish education policy, or any aspect of Scottish life would be the real danger here, not Section 28 or the lack of it.
Cam, Scotland

As the chair of a project that supports the sexual health of lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender people I know at first hand the impact upon people that S28 will have if it is not repealed. The project deals with many people of all ages who have been brought up with the values that being different is wrong! Low self esteem, discrimination, self oppression are the results of this Tory legislation. It must go and go quickly. S28 is not about "promoting" homosexuality in the classroom - it is about a citizenship that respect the rights of the individual.
Alec Deary, Scotland

I thought education was supposed to be about truth and preparing children to deal with the world, not perpetuating narrow-minded prejudice. No doubt there are people in Britain who would like children to be taught that black people are inferior to whites, or that birth control is evil, but their abhorrent views are kept out of our schools just as homophobic prejudice should be. As for 'promoting' homosexuality, this is a meaningless idea - you can't persuade children to change their sexuality one way or the other, and in any case, what reasonable teacher would try? Lifting a ban on a thing doesn't mean anyone will do it.
Rebecca, UK

There is no way that section 28 should be repealed. If anything the schools should be teaching our children that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle. As for the children who are bullied due to their homosexual tendencies, can the schools not provide qualified therapists in order to cure these children of their psychological disorder?
Danny Forrest, Sweden (Expat Scot)

Section 28 must be repealed. Currently schools are prevented from even responding to the needs of gay and lesbian pupils. Lesbian and gay pupils can receive no information on issues that affect them as sexually developing young adults. Section 28 denies the validity of gay relationships and promotes the irresponsible and mistaken idea that gay relationships (either as partners or parents) are "pretend" and wrong. Section 28 is motivated of irrational fear and blind bigotry. No-one chooses to be gay (or straight for that matter) but everyone deserves support in their personal development whether straight or gay - currently only heterosexual pupils are permitted to receive that support through the education system and is often only heterosexual youngsters who get help from home.
Alister McClure, UK

Discussing these matters in an open and non-politicised way in the framework of a global pedagogical approach that promotes freedom of expression, tolerance and citizenship can be educationally very relevant and laudable.
Luis Amorim, Belgium

Of course the law should be repealed. I don't think that any sexual orientation should be promoted in schools. Children should be taught that some people are homosexual, some heterosexual, and some bi-sexual, and that these are all acceptable in modern society. None should be promoted, just explained. This would hopefully reduce some of the incredible prejudice there is against homosexuals. What are people expecting to happen if this goes ahead? Are they expecting teachers will just walk into the class room the following day and say "I think homosexuality is preferable to heterosexuality and I think you should all go and try it now"!!! Let's face it, it won't happen, and for that reason this law serves no purpose, and should be repealed.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England

I am not homophobic however I do believe that it is in the best interest of the country to retain section 28. We need to protect vulnerable children at such a young age and instil traditional family life NOT advocate others. Many claim that this leads to bullying within schools but bulling of homosexual children should be dealt with in the same way that any other bullying is dealt with. But I do strongly believe that there must be a line between advocating homosexuality and protecting homosexuals. We cannot be pushed by a Government more intent on protecting the rights of the minorities than the rights of the majority.
Melissa, England

The first I ever heard of homosexuality (at the age of 9) was when the news was full of Jeremy Thorp's business. So politicians and the media informed me very well without education policy coming into it. Funny that.
Fiona, England

If Mr Dewar and his colleagues repeal Section 28, I think they can all start looking for new jobs now.

Rod McEwen, UK
If Mr Dewar and his colleagues repeal Section 28, I think they can all start looking for new jobs now. The Scottish people will make their voice heard as Mr Dewar and co seem to be ignoring the vast majority of Scots. What ever happened to democracy in Scotland.
Rod McEwen, UK

As a parent, I believe that children should be aware of homosexuality. I believe the ban on "PROMOTION" of homosexuality as normal is right and should stay. We do live in a Christian society, governed by Christian rules and guidelines, and as such we should be tolerant of all types of people and personal beliefs. However, to actively promote homosexuality as good is surely the wrong way to go about this.
Alan Ashcroft, UK

This is primarily a job for parents. I have three sons. They are aware that a homosexual relationship is distinguished by the practice of anal intercourse between two males. They consider this to be a repugnant and unnatural practice as do I. If teachers are prepared to tell it as it is in a simple matter of fact way, I'm sure others would come to the same natural conclusion.
Chris Klein, UK

I don't see why anyone should be defined primarily in terms of their sexual preferences. In other words, why are gays special? What about people with foot fetishes or a predilection for rubberwear? Are they entitled to special consideration by society? Of course not, and neither should people who fancy members of the same sex. If gay lifestyles are to be promoted in school, then I want to see the joys of rubber fetishism etc being equally represented.
Paul Hicks, UK

If section 28 is repealed, what do people who oppose this have to fear? A homosexual relationship is just as legitimate as a heterosexual one. Please don't let these ignorant bigots drag us back into the Middle Ages as appears to be the case in the US.
Janet, UK

Being told about various religions at school did not make me religious, hearing that some people decide not to eat meat did not make me vegetarian.

SC, England
Section 28 is a waste of time. Before it came in, did teachers sit down in front of their charges and describe the wonders of homosexuality? I doubt it. They won't after it's repealed either. Children are impressionable, yes, but not to the extent that people seem to think. Being told about various religions at school did not make me religious, hearing that some people decide not to eat meat did not make me vegetarian. If you are gay, I believe you are born that way (having a gay relative brought it home to me - the misery he went through for years coming to terms with it was certainly not a *lifestyle choice*) and no amount of gay-bashing or legislation will change that basic fact.
All that will happen when S28 is repealed is that teachers will be able to support children who are coming to terms with their sexuality, educate bullies against discriminating, and hopefully go some way towards ending the victimisation of homosexuals for everything that goes wrong in society!
SC, England

I fully support Mr. Souter and Co. in their efforts to ensure that this vital law is retained. It seems to me that anyone who dares to confess to be a Christian and quote the Bible/Book of Mormon is automatically accused of being a bigot or even a neo-Nazi.
Only a few decades ago the idea that children should be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle and perfectly normal, would have been met with horror and disgust.
Donald Dewar and his minions have, in effect, stated that the opinions of the Scottish people, in this matter, is unimportant and will be ignored. What happened to democracy?
Well, if Donald Dewar won't listen he will pay the price in the next general election.
Dr. S, Scotland, UK

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20 Jan 00 | Scotland
Section 28: Your questions answered
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