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‘Inappropriate’ sexual content in SA school curriculum ignites public and religious outcry

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The controversial Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum has ignited public outrage with many arguing that government is once again crossing the line and delving into the private realm of parenting. Faith-based organisations and political parties such as Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) have come out in condemnation of the new sexual content proposed for young school students, likening it to “soft-porn” and warning that it has been proven ineffective in addressing the concerns of the South African government. The curriculum, which exposes young school students to arguably inappropriate and explicit sexual content, has already been piloted in five provinces – including the Western Cape – and is likely to be formally introduced in all public schools in 2020.

Legal Counsel of FOR SA, Nadene Badenhorst highlighted that government is once again entrenching itself in what should be respected as the parent’s domain and has removed the rights of parents to have primary responsibility for the upbringing and education of their children, which includes sexual education combined with religious and moral teaching.

“According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents – not the state or teachers, parents –  have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and education of their children, including sexual education.

While some parents may be too happy for the state to take over that role of teaching their children about the birds and the bees…the point remains that for many parents they want to retain the right over the messenger on these sensitive topics, over the message that is being given to their children and their own world view on these issues. Their religious and moral rights are also protected by the constitution.”

“We don’t have a problem with the department teaching children the facts regarding some of these things but the moment the school starts getting engaged in making value-judgements – whether some things are good or bad – that’s where we get into trouble and that’s where the school takes it too far and steps into the shoes of the parents, and that should not be allowed,” she said.

Not long ago, there was a Constitutional Court ruling outlawing corporal punishment in the private and public domain, effectively making the physical disciplining of your child – as some faith-based organisations would argue is their religious right – unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

READ MORE | ‘The state has decided that they’re better parents than you are’: FOR SA

Badenhorst warned that what she regards as an “ineffective” attempt at addressing legitimate concerns through the CSE would result in “early sexual debut, paid sex, sore sex” and an increased likelihood of sexual assault.

“Sexuality education has always been a small component of the life skills curriculum in primary schools and life orientation in high schools. However, what our government realised is that we are a country that has a massively high rate of HIV, STIs, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence and that the current curriculum is not effective in addressing those issues.

So, what they’ve done is to look at the gaps in their curriculum, measured it against UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) technical guidelines on sexuality education and filled the gaps with what they call comprehensive sexuality education – which is a programme that has been introduced by, and is coming from, UNESCO and others. [It] has been introduced worldwide in countries and has proven itself to be a radically graphic and explicit program teaching our children how to have sex while they learn about the risks and consequences of sexual behaviour at an early age.”

“When we look at the facts on UNESCO’s own study, CSE has been shown to actually be ineffective in addressing the concerns government has. It’s been shown to be ineffective in increasing abstinence, increasing condom use, has been shown to be ineffective in decreasing STI’s and HIV and actually increases early sexual debut, sore sex, paid for sex and sexual assault…so for these very reasons we approached government and said ‘There is no binding legal obligation on South Africa to implement CSE, so why would we do it?’,” explained Badenhorst.

Lack of consultation and undermining religious teachings

Worryingly, Badenhorst also indicated that the major stakeholders in the process – parents and teachers – have been “completely left in the dark” and have had little to no say in the rolling out of the programme in South African schools.

From a religious perspective, devout Muslims and Christians alike have expressed deep concern at the normalisation of things these religions are widely understood to rule on as illicit and immoral.

The CSE therefore directly undermines what some religions, such as Islam or Christianity, might teach.

“Once we start saying that something is or isn’t normal, that it will or will not hurt you, that many boys and girls do it so why not you and that it’s ok [to do these various things]… then we are getting into the terrain of value-judgement.

It [the CSE] glamourises sex rather than teaching children from a health-based approach.”

The Muslim Judicial Council said it was still conducting its own research into the DBE’s proposal and would provide a comment later this week.

Leader of the ACDP, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe has condemned the curriculum, calling it “wicked”.

He explained that for South African schools, who are largely still battling to become competitive in the fields of mathematics and science, it is deplorable that these schools should now attempt to focus on teaching young children about the various forms of sexual intercourse.

“We are not happy that government wants to teach children what their [political leaders’] parents did not teach them – immorality.

They want to ensure that that which has been unacceptable throughout our lifetime now is becoming acceptable. What also makes many parents unhappy is that parents were not consulted,” said Meshoe.

“…to now want to teach children about oral sex, anal sex and other forms of sex is totally unacceptable. They should be focusing on improving the skills of our children and making our children competitive when they leave school. What government wants to do is to impose immorality on the South African population. What they are doing is immoral and totally unacceptable.”

The largest concern seems to stem not from the fact-based educational approach, but rather from more contemporary understandings of sexuality, morality and gender. Religious groups and persons are finding that their children are being exposed to and taught what is or isn’t socially, morally or religiously acceptable by an institution that has not been explicitly mandated by them to do so.

According to FOR SA, “The Department’s project has been funded by, amongst others, USAID and involves a review of the old curriculum to incorporate UNESCO’s highly controversial International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE), contributed to by the notorious abortion agency Planned Parenthood. The Department’s decision to incorporate ITGSE in the new curriculum comes despite scientific studies showing that the ITGSE curriculum and approach are ineffective in achieving its apparent objectives…particularly in African contexts.”

For more information on the CSE and FOR SA’s concerns, click the links below:

FOR SA Website

Press Release: Controversial Sex-Ed Content to be Rolled out in Public Schools, Revealed

Specific examples of content have not been included in this article due to concerns around sensitive readers and suitability. However, you can find these examples by clicking HERE

VOC


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