The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has expressed concern over the Ministry of Education’s Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) format for all primary schools, especially as it relates to the topic of sexuality and sexual health.
In a letter from its attorney Dinesh Rambally, to Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Chief Education Officer, Lisa Henry-David, the Maha Sabha said that any airing of sexuality and sexual health as part of the HFLE, can interfere with the stated tenets of their religious text and beliefs.
The HFLE was proposed during the ministry’s online National Consultation on Education 2020 series.
In the letter, which Rambally titled “Infringement of rights and religious freedom as guaranteed under the Constitution and Concordat, arising out of the National Consultation 2020: Questionnaires for Stakeholder,” he said any attempt to introduce sex education in primary schools must ensure that whatever may be presented as prevailing sexual attitudes worldwide must be counterbalanced by the given religious principles of Hinduism and possibly other religions.
The SDMS believes that the remit of the denominational board schools was ignored by the Ministry of Education not seeking the board’s position on sex education in its primary schools, short circuiting it by narrowly soliciting a response within the Parents Questionnaire.
The HFLE aims to provide students with knowledge and life skills to navigate various issues including sexuality and sexual health.
But the SDMS, via Rambally, said this does not render any real clarification into what is going to be taught in sex education classes, especially in light of the fact that many internationally are being taught that there are 100 different genders, but Hinduism has always made a distinction between what is male and what is female (that is what pertains to the body).
Based on the Constitution and the Concordat, the issue of sex education and the HFLE should have been discussed with the education management boards of the denominational schools, rather than through an online public consultation.
Rambally said the SDMS is not prudish on matters of sexuality, pointing out that vast Hindu literature exists and includes the Kama Sutras – a treatise on sexuality. “But its use was never contemplated as being fit for children.”
He said there is the risk that this teaching may inadvertently raise unbridled curiosity and exploration among pre-pubescent and pubescent students.
“This is of crucial concern to us. The very training and differing attitudes of teachers in the delivery of sex education may have many parents of primary school age children feeling rather concerned if such education is not in alignment with what is being taught in the home setting.”
For standards four and five students who will be undergoing pubescent changes, he supported discussion, possibly by a health worker, on puberty, menstruation, male and family bodily changes – “But no more.”
He said the rest is better suited to secondary-school level, where students would be a bit more mature and where teachers specialise in the different subjects.