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Cape Town - The official opposition has asked the head of parliamentary committees to intervene after its request for a meeting to discuss a mooted sex curriculum at schools was turned down by a committee on education.

DA MP Nomsa Marchesi has since submitted a letter to Cedric Frolick, the National Assembly House Chairperson of Committees, in which she complained that the dismissal of her request for a committee meeting prevented public participation in Parliament.

“I therefore press upon you that you urgently communicate with our chairperson Mbinqo-Gigaba on the importance of allowing public participation in Parliament,” Marchesi said.

The drama began when Marchesi wrote to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, on October 29 requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the department’s new comprehensive sexual education curriculum.

She said one of the unions had expressed concern that teachers would be uncomfortable teaching the curriculum, which included issues on masturbation, sexual consent, gender non-conformity and single-parent families.

“There has also been an outcry from the religious sector. It is due to these pressing issues that I believe a discussion needs to take place surrounding the content of the curriculum,” Marchesi wrote in her letter.

She added: “I therefore request that you urgently invite all the relevant stakeholders, including basic education and civil society, to address the committee on their concerns regarding the comprehensive sexual education curriculum.” But her request was turned down by Mbinqo-Gigaba, who pointed out that the department made a comprehensive presentation on the matter to the committee on September 17.

“I have satisfied myself that the matter has received the necessary attention and (has been) dealt with in its entirety and sufficiently clarified,” Mbinqo-Gigaba wrote in a letter on November 1.

She added that the department had indicated that it consulted widely and was open to further engagement and consultation on the matter. “I urge that you direct submissions on the matter to the Department of Basic Education for further engagement.”

On Sunday, Marchesi said Mbinqo-Gigaba’s action was tantamount to blocking public participation in the processes of Parliament.

“The outcry and concerns among parents and teachers requires a meeting of all the relevant stakeholders,” she said. “Sex education must strike a careful balance between equipping young people with the information they need to make the right choices, without unintentionally over-sexualising pupils,” Marchesi said.

Political Bureau