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43,000 signatures seeking review of sex education at Japanese schools submitted

Nonprofit Pilcon director Asuka Someya, center, and others demanding that the Japanese education ministry review school curriculums to promote sex education as part of compulsory education are seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 30, 2022. (Mainichi/Ai Kunimoto)

TOKYO -- A petition asking for a review of school curriculums to promote "comprehensive sex education" as part of Japan's compulsory education has been submitted to the education ministry, with some 43,000 signatures supporting the move.

    Asuka Someya, head of the nonprofit organization Pilcon working toward familiarizing sex education at schools which was involved in the signature drive, said today's sex education in Japan does not fit the reality of teenage children.

    In human rights-based comprehensive sex education, students learn not only about human anatomy and the reproduction system, but also about relationships, sexual diversity and gender equality in an extensive and systematic manner. In the comprehensive sex education guidance compiled by UNESCO and other groups in 2009, education on sex and contraception were to be provided to children aged between 9 and 12.

    In Japan, meanwhile, the official junior high school curriculum guidelines say "the process of pregnancy is not taught" at schools, and in general children do not learn about subjects including sex and contraception in compulsory education, or from first to ninth grade. At the same time, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of abortions among those aged between 10 and 19 was over 10,000 in fiscal 2020.

    During a news conference after the petition was submitted on Nov. 30, it was revealed that when the group asked an education ministry official how the controversial provision came about, they said, "There are no proceeding records left (on the provision) and nothing that explicitly states (how it was created)."

    Someya pointed out, "We suspect that the education ministry has the provision in place based on the assumption that junior high and high school children don't have sex. But that's just not the reality." She demanded that the provision be revised, saying, "Regardless of the child's interest in sex, I want authorities to create an environment where they can learn and protect their own body, and also respect the body of the other individual."

    The signature drive was launched in April 2018, in response to some Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly members who viewed a sex education class carried out at an Adachi Ward public junior high school a month prior and deemed it problematic. Up to around fall this year, it had collected some 20,000 signatures, but due to growing interest in sex education the signature number doubled in just some two months, leading to the submission to the education ministry.

    (Japanese original by Ai Kunimoto, Tokyo City News Department)

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