Fri, May 06, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Rights groups defend gender equality curriculum

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Although the Ministry of Education (MOE) has come under fire over educational materials that addressed gender equality and gay rights, gender equality and women’s groups expressed their support for the curriculum yesterday.

“I think this [objections from lawmakers] is the biggest setback [for education on gender equality] since the Gender Equality Education Act (性別平等教育法) was passed seven years ago,” Taiwan Gender Equality Education Association secretary-general Lai Yu-mei (賴友梅) told a news conference at the legislature in the morning.

“We can only root out [gender bullying] if everyone knows about homosexuality correctly — the gender equality curriculum is not a gender equality curriculum if the gay issue is excluded from it,” she said.

Lai was referring to objections from lawmakers across party lines, including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), over the contents of the curriculum, which includes an introduction to diversity in sexual orientation.

Lawmakers, as well as representatives from some teachers’ and parents’ groups, have expressed concern that teaching elementary and junior high school students about diverse sexual orientations “too early” could “confuse” them.

However, Lee Shao-fen (李韶芬), who represented the Taiwan Domestic Partner Task Force, said: “Homosexuality itself is not a ‘problem,’ in fact conservative morality lies behind many social problems.”

Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities secretary-general Hsu Fei-kai (許斐凱) said diverse sexual orientation at schools should not be overlooked and discrimination against gays was a serious problem in school.

“Not long ago, a high school lesbian couple committed suicide because their relationship was not tolerated by the school, their classmates or their families,” he said. “If we don’t teach our kids that everyone is equal regardless of their sexual orientation, tragedies like this will just continue to happen.”

Hsu also accused lawmakers and some groups of exaggerated statements about the curriculum.

For example, media reports citing remarks made by lawmakers against the curriculum claimed that part of the education included teaching students how to wash sex toys after their use.

“That’s not at all part of the curriculum,” he said.

In addition, many critics of the curriculum spoke as if there would be a separate class for sex -education, Hsu said.

“In reality, under the program teachers would only be asked to mention the importance of respecting people with different sexual orientations, whenever it’s appropriate,” he said.

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