'Replace sex education with format to make people aware about child pregnancy'

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New Delhi, July 11: Days after courting controversy over his remarks on imparting sex education in schools, Health Minister Harshvardhan today said it should be replaced by a format which makes people aware about child pregnancy and associated evils.

"I have spoken out against so-called sex education without pedagogy on this burning issue and would like it to be replaced by a format which makes people aware about child pregnancy and associated evils," he said on the eve of UN World Population Day.

Last month he was quoted as saying that he seeks a ban on sex education in schools and later clarified that he embraced rationalism and whole-heartedly supports pedagogy that is scientific and culturally acceptable.

"Anything abrasive to common sensibilities and articulated as such by responsible persons should be discarded and replaced by consensually accepted learning processes," the Minister said during an official trip to the United States.

A WHO report states that half of world's adolescent pregnancies occur in seven countries, one of which is India. A UNFPA report of 2011 stated that every year 4 million teenage girls under 18 have babies. For every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 there are 76 adolescent births compared to 49 worldwide and 53 in developing countries.

"Let us not harbour the illusion that these pregnancies are the result of sound consensus. They are a consequence of discrimination, rights violations, child marriage, inadequate education or downright rape," the Minister said on the report.

"Even in the second decade of the 21st century, the government is nowhere when it comes to evolving an education system which convinces people not to impose marriage and pregnancy on young girls before they are physically and mentally capable of motherhood, Harshvardhan said.

He said the World Population Day is a day for introspection and India has "spectacularly failed" in controlling its population and in utilising its huge human resource base to engender national progress.

"Nations have suffered for want of enough able bodied and wise men. We have plenty of this resource in India but don't know how to use it to our national advantage. What can be a greater tragedy?," he said.

The Health Minister said that the theme for this year?s World Population Day chosen by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPS) is "Investing in youth".

Vardhan said the present population of India, 1.2 billion, need not be viewed as a burden. "Our population is young and willing to contribute but we have to empower them with adequate skills. This is the only route to harnessing the demographic dividend," he said.

The intention of observing July 11 as World Population is to raise awareness on the need to offer adequate health, education and other essential services.

The Executive Director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotomehin has called for raising people?s awareness of the problem of adolescent pregnancies. He has also given a call for investing in adolescent girls which is key to achieving development aims.

PTI

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