While Union Health Minister Harshvardhan dilly dallies over his stand on sex education, Maharashtra has shied away from educating school children, despite a government resolution in place to formally introduce sex education in schools.
A decade ago, when the late Vilasrao Deshmukh was chief minister, an expert committee was formulated under MLA Prasad Danture to study the issue of sex education. "Recommendations of the committee were presented in the subsequent assembly session and a resolution was passed, citing the necessity to introduce sex education in the state," said a senior official from Mantralaya.
The state education department was in a lurch as it did not have expert sex counsellors, nor a training manual to honor the resolution.
In 2007, when the centre recommended that the UNICEF manual of sex education should be implemented, the idea was vehemently opposed in the assembly.
Harshvardhan later clarified that the comment on his website that sex education should be banned was in light of the UPA government's 2007 decision to introduce the Adolescence Education Programme (AE) in its original form.
Dr Rajan Bhosale, head, department of sexual medicine at KEM Hospital said, "The UNICEF manual could not have been adapted as it is without modification in a syllabus that appeals to the Indian sense. The graphics were too explicit and there was opposition in political circles regarding its use in schools."
He lamented that a middle ground was never achieved. "Every child must know how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Also, adolescents should be trained to understand the hormonal changes they experience in puberty, so as to act responsibly," Dr Bhosale told dna.
As per Dr Bhosale, while public schools in Maharashtra have no formal structure to impart sex education, many private schools have trained counsellors who are doing a commendable job at raising awareness.
Sudeshna Chaterjee, principal, Jamnabai Narsee High School endorses Dr Bhosale's view, saying, "Direct, easy, fearless speech is the first sign of empowerment in your child. It will ensure that the child speaks to the parent about every single incident that happens during the day."