Sample this: Class X biology textbook in Kerala says that HIV spreads via premarital or extramarital sex. It seems as though a moral science lecture was gently slipped into the biology textbooks? But then this is India, so are we really surprised? Published by the State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT), the error came to light when a teacher shared a picture of the particular page from the book on social media, reports India Today. The book uses a graphic to explain multiple ways by which HIV spreads. One of the reasons mentioned is “through premarital/ extramarital sexual contact.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Kerala’s Class X biology textbook says that HIV spreads via premarital and extramarital sex. 
  • This incident brings to light how moral policing infests all aspects of upbringing in our country.
  • Spreading misinformation about something as critical as HIV infection can lead to hazardous consequences.

It seems as though a moral science lecture was gently slipped into the biology textbooks. But then this is India, so are we really surprised?

This incident tells us how moral policing infests all aspects of upbringing in our country. Kids, especially teens are never far from a lecture on sanskari conduct at any point of time. But to let morality call the shots in a textbook is a new level of desperation. Having worked as a dentist, I know how misinformation among patients spreads, how it affects their mindset and often puts them on a wrong path for treatment. Which is why it upsets me so much that a book saying that premarital sex or extramarital sex lead to HIV infection not only made it through the writer and editor’s desk, but also escaped the scrutiny of SCERT heads and got distributed among thousands of kids.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10157042259128620&set=gm.304618573583119&type=1&theater

How come not one person at SCERT caught the error? Or was it all approved, and everyone was on-board with this spreading of misinformation? If this is the case, it makes me question our education system more than ever. Every now and then we come across textbooks, where a personal or communal agenda is found hiding under the guise of education. Last year a proposed course book contained an essay on “The Modern Girl,” which criticised girls for aiming to enjoy life as boys do. When such things make it to print and it takes social media users, teachers, students and parents to point out at the mistakes, it shows the level of neglect in our education system, when it comes to curating textbooks.

Telling class X students that HIV spreads via premarital or extramarital sex is hazardous.

Telling class X students in a biology textbook that HIV spreads via premarital or extramarital sex is hazardous. Most of these kids would stop studying this very subject after the tenth standard. They will carry forward whatever they have learned for the rest of their adult lives. We are going to have engineers, accountants, homemakers, artists; both men and women, whose heads are full of taboos in the name of science. And to think that this is happening in the most literate states in our country! Instead of fueling taboos around sex these textbooks should be providing information about protective measures like using condoms. Preaching celibacy before marriage or virtues of fidelity has no place in a biology textbook.

For long we have believed that textbooks published across various states in this country go through a level of scrutiny. There is a body of people who design each page and gets a say in what goes on each and every page. Despite all this, if children end up with such lessons, who is responsible? While the SCERT may have said that the mistake has been rectified, we must not stop questioning how it happened in the first place. We cannot afford such gross oversights which could lead to the spread of misinformation on a topic as critically important as HIV.

Image Credit: LiveMint

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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