The National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) is likely to consider a proposal to revise textbooks for young children to include identification of male and female genitalia. The move comes following a study, conducted by medical students of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) in Wardha, indicated absence of adequate school education to raise awareness on child sexual abuse. In 2016, the MGIMS study analysed Class I and II textbooks of the NCERT and found that the syllabus covered ‘human body parts’ but refrained from labelling the genital organs. The diagram of a naked boy labelled parts including the nose, knees and hands, but kept the genital area covered.
NCERT textbooks introduce identification of male genitalia in Class VII and female genitalia in Class X, said Savitri Devi, a final-year MBBS student, who was part of the MGIMS study.
Apart from the NCERT, the report was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the union human resource development minister and the Maharashtra education minister. It also studied textbooks for Class I to VII of the NCERT, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Delhi, and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE-ICSE) boards, as well as various state boards. Except the state board of Tamil Nadu, no syllabus exclusively taught children about child sex abuse or how to report it.
Dr Indrajit Khandekar — attached with the forensic medicine department at MGIMS that conducted the study — said a minor victim of sexual abuse is unable to name body parts to describe an assault. “They give vague references to private parts. It is necessary to educate children at an early age,” he said. “Teaching students about these body parts may help increase reporting of cases,” Khandekar added. Professor Saroj Yadav, Dean (Academics) at NCERT told The Indian Express: “We will place the proposal before the textbook development committee whenever there is a revision. Whatever the committee decides, will be the final revision. So far, we have not decided which class will need a revision.”
According to Flavia Agnes, director of legal centre Majlis, child victims of sexual abuse sometimes manage to articulate phrases such as “bad touch”. “We need to go beyond good touch and bad touch. In western countries, the education starts earlier. This will also help in making a case stronger against the accused,” said Agnes.