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Okay to be attracted to members of same sex, says Health Ministry

New Delhi: The Health Ministry took everyone by surprise on Monday after it released a resource material for adolescent peer educators that put forward some very bold and progressive views towards sex and inter-personal relationships.

“Adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex," the resource material, in Hindi, read. The move comes as a surprise to many as the Government is yet to alter the country's archaic laws relating homosexuality.

The section on reproduction and sexual health also took everyone by surprise, listing masturbation as one of the safest sexual practices for both boys and girls, the Indian Express reported.

It also provides extensive information on contraceptives, and abortion.

Addressing issues of gender and gender related violence, the material said, “A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy. Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean that he is not male. The same applies for girls who talk too much or like to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such people as ‘sissy’ or ‘tomboy’.”

"It is normal to have special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no," it added, detailing on the importance of consent.

The material was prepared by the Health Ministry in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund to train over 1.6 lakh volunteer adolescents under the Rastriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK).

The volunteers will  act as peer educators who sensitise over 26 crore teenagers regarding issues faced by adolescents, including sex, contraception and substance abuse among other things, and promote a healthy lifestyle among the youth.

It was unveiled by Health Secretary CK Mishra on Monday.

The educators will be trained by the Centre, and will be entitled for a non-monetary payment of Rs 50 per month in the form of magazine subscriptions or mobile recharge or 'any other means decided by the state'. 

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