In India, the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala has introduced sex education into the catechism classes for eighth-grade catechism students. Called 'Enlight,' the program was introduced last year within the diocese on an experimental basis. “The response from the children, their parents and the teachers has been so overwhelming that we have decided to make it a part of the curriculum,” said Fr. Jimmy Poochakkatt, who directs the Department of Catechism and Moral Education of the archdiocese.
The Syro-Malabar rite church, which is one of several historic rites or traditions within the Catholic Church, had earlier made pre-marital counseling and sex education classes mandatory for brides and bridegrooms in advance of their wedding day. Catholic children in Kerala, from age 5 to 15, take religion classes every Sunday after Mass,
“We plan to cover all the 100,000 students—this will mean covering around 10,000 each year,” Fr. Poochakkat said. So far, more than 8,000 children have attended the ‘Enlight’ sessions held at a dozen places across the archdiocese.
The day-long sessions, handled by psychologists and counselors using audio-visual aids, introduce children to what the archdiocese regards as a Christian concept of sexuality and the human body, as well as a scientific analysis of the functioning of sexual organs, puberty, biological changes in teenaged bodies, as well as sexual attraction between men and women. Added to this, is a specific segment that deals with social networking traps and mobile phone abuse.
“The Church believes that sexuality is a divine gift. At a time when child sex abuse is widespread and the abuse of social networking and mobile phone is rampant, our teenagers should have a clear sense of the sexual traps they face in everyday life,” the priest said. “Both the offenders and the victims lack knowledge of their own bodies and their sexualities,” said Fr. Poochakkhat, adding that students are told during the ‘Enlight’ sessions that ‘sexuality is a divine gift, don’t misuse it.’”