New Delhi, Jan. 24: The J.S. Verma committee, set up after the Delhi gang rape, has suggested introduction of sex education in schools which should also cover different sexual orientations.
The panel, which submitted a 631-page report to the government yesterday, said a "scientific" approach could change prevailing perceptions and bring about a sense of responsibility while dealing with the opposite gender.
It recommended that sex education be made an integral part of "each Indian student's curriculum" and delivered by trained teachers assisted by counsellors trained in child psychology.
"Sexuality can be diverse…. Children need to be able to access informed, non-prejudiced sources on sexuality. Challenging the perception of sexuality as being purely heterosexual is an ongoing agenda for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism…. Collaborating or networking with LGBT activists is a beginning to understanding different sexuality experiences," the report said.
The state is responsible for imparting sex education based on universal values, it said.
"If human rights of freedom mean anything, India cannot deny the citizens the right to be different. The state must not use oppressive and repressive labelling of despised sexuality. Thus the right to sexual orientation is a human right guaranteed by the fundamental principles of equality. We must also add that transgender communities are also entitled to an affirmation of gender autonomy. Our cultural prejudices must yield to constitutional principles of equality, empathy and respect," the panel said.
Schools provide the practical means of reaching large numbers of young people from diverse backgrounds who could be imparted "age-appropriate sexuality education", the report said.
Children have to be prepared before their transition to adulthood, the report said, quoting from a Unesco release, International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, one of the many sources it has drawn from.
"The committee is of the opinion that there should be an introduction of sex education in a clinical manner in schools since the processes of growing up as well as absorption of knowledge has increased," the report said.
The Indian Science Congress had first recommended sex education in schools in 1992, 13 years before the National Council of Educational Research and Training restructured its "adolescent education programme" to include components of sex education in textbooks for Classes IX to XII.
The Verma committee, however, appears to be looking at sex education in a wider sense to cover gender bias, patriarchy, sexual violence and relationships among the opposite sexes.
The Union home ministry had set up the Verma panel on December 23 in the wake of protests against the gang rape of a trainee paramedic seven days earlier. Sources said the report would be forwarded to the parliamentary panel examining the bill.