Sexual taboos break into the classroom

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The "taboo" subjects of "masturbation, homosexuality, pre-marital sex and sexual harassment etc" are to be broached in Hong Kong's secondary schools if government proposals are accepted. In addition, for the first time, sex education will appear on the curriculum for kindergartens and primary schools.

Yesterday the colony's administration issued new guidelines on sex education. Julian Leung, assistant director of education, said revisions were necessary "in view of the rapid social changes over the past 10 years". The government was trying to help teachers equip students with "the attitudes, values and knowledge necessary for resolving sex tensions".

The guidelines also provide for education on Aids and an "emphasis on the clarification of values, positive self-esteem, and concepts of marriage and family". Hong Kong schools are not known as centres of enlightenment, particularly when it comes to sex education. Surveys taken among young people have shown high levels of ignorance about sex.

The proposed guidelines are expected to be opposed by teachers reluctant to teach about sex and parents who seem to believe their children should not have access to sexual information at an early age.

Evidence suggests sex education is badly needed in Hong Kong. A survey by a group concerned about proliferation of pornography found that over a quarter of boys questioned said they would commit rape if this did not mean going to jail.

Last year a consultation exercise on sexual discrimination found 53 per cent of those questioned would not allow a homosexual into their homes, 37 per cent would not stay in the same hotel as a homosexual or bi-sexual and one in five people stated they would not shake hands with a gay person.