Letter: Consult widely on sexuality education
THERE is a global trend to introduce sex education in schools, starting at the pre-teen level.
This is a sensitive matter, with serious ethical and moral implications.
This is especially so in South Africa, where ethics, morality and integrity have largely become irrelevant, crime and violence are rife in schools, and kids are experimenting in high-risk activities relating to sex, drugs and alcohol - a toxic combination.
In Hinduism, there are four goals/aims of life - dharma (leading an ethical and moral life); artha (pursuit of wealth), kama (pursuit of emotional fulfilment) and moksha (pursuit of self-knowledge).
Hinduism maintains that sex (which forms part of the third goal/aim) is to be enjoyed as one of the pleasures of married life.
This would mean that Hindu parents have a responsibility to educate their children about sexuality.
The question though remains: how openly do parents talk about sexuality with their children?
With the advancement of technology and social media, Hindu children, like children of other faiths, are exposed to issues of sexuality on the internet.
There is also the possibility that Hindu children may learn new things about sexuality in their peer groups and then use the internet to satisfy their curiosity.
Recently, there has been an increase in reports on the sexual abuse of women and young children (boys and girls) and teenage pregnancies.
South Africa also has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. Under these circumstances, it would be irresponsible to adopt an ostrich mentality.
There is no doubt that sex education could be beneficial to teach our children how to develop personal values and how to understand interpersonal relationships as they explore their sexuality.
There is a need for our children to get information from trusted sources, so they can see the dangers lurking beneath that which is being promoted on the internet.
There has been controversy over the sexual content which did not appear to be age-appropriate.
The focus on healthy, ethical and morally upright conduct, as opposed to the social pathologies which are widespread even in primary schools, must be welcomed.
So while the Department of Basic Education is arguing for the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum, it needs to do this after consultation with parents, teachers, teacher unions and religious organisations.
The parents, teachers, teacher unions and religious organisations collectively have a large reservoir of experience to suggest a programme that would be both beneficial to our children and sensitive to the varying views on sexuality education that prevail in our country.
Hinduism, for example, can offer a programme of yoga and celibacy.
The SA Hindu Maha Sabha calls on the Department of Basic Education to host a national interfaith workshop with legitimate leaders to address these concerns.