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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Indian state bans sex education
Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Protester at Indian HIV rally
More than 5m people have HIV in India
India's Maharashtra state has banned the introduction of sex education in schools after protests from legislators who say it will corrupt young minds.

The move is being seen as a setback to central government efforts to introduce sex education in schools countrywide.

Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh states recently announced similar decisions.

India has the highest number of Aids patients in the world. However sex is still a taboo subject in many parts of the country.

The Maharashtra government also said it will not be introducing sex education books as part of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus.

I know a lot of ladies who did not know anything until their first experiences!
Indian parent

India - the country that gave the world the Kama Sutra - still hesitates to talk about sex openly in the 21st Century.

Despite the large number of patients suffering from HIV/Aids, sex - the word and subject - are taboo in many parts of the country and is not discussed as openly as in the cities.

'Social evils'

Many parents still hesitate to talk to their children about the topic and related matters.

The children are just taught about the basics - such as biological changes in girls and boys and reproduction - in school

India map

N N Nayar, the principal of APJ school on the outskirts of Mumbai city told the BBC that they have received instructions to increase awareness regarding "social evils" in teenagers and they have been doing that.

"Our endeavour is to make children aware of these evils such as drug addiction, alcoholism and other dangerous things.

"I am of the opinion that sex education by itself is not important, what is important is a holistic approach to the issue of social evils."

Mr Nayyar also said most children are aware of these issues today because they are constantly receiving information through the media and internet.

"It doesn't matter whether we tell our girl child to be careful and not mingle with strangers," he said.

"She already knows she should not do it."

Vital debate

The parent of a three-year old boy, Tanya Gulrajani said she is amazed by how aware her child is as compared to herself.

Authorities may have banned sex education but the move has focussed attention on the subject

"It fascinates me to see that my son is so aware about how different he is from the girls at such a young age when we couldn't be bothered about anything like this," she told the BBC website.

She said she would not mind her son getting educated about sex at school, but feels it should be done in an interactive and creative manner so that they absorb what is being taught.

"We were taught about reproduction as part of the syllabus and even asked to make diagrams.

"I did not really learn anything and it was not just me. I know a lot of ladies who did not know anything until their first experiences!

"I am all for spreading awareness because it is an important subject in the end," she said.

Another parent said it is important the school takes the lead in this matter because there are many mothers who still do not have "the talk" with their children, even about something as basic as menstruation.

Authorities may have banned sex education in schools but the move has focussed everyone's attention on the subject.

Health experts hope this will spark off a debate on an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

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