Education officials in Hong Kong have come under fire for planning to teach nursery children as young as two about sex abuse.
The education department is developing curriculum packs and teaching aids to be used in all kindergartens, as well as packs for primary and secondary schools. Chan Pui-tin, senior curriculum officer for biology, said:
"Pre-primary school pupils can learn about sex abuse by singing songs like nursery rhymes." He also wants kindergartens to use anatomically detailed boy and girl dolls in role-play exercises.
"The children would be taught what are good and bad touches, and which are the parts that should never be touched except for medical reasons, " he said. "Dolls with authentic sexual organs are good for role-playing on sex abuse as they are realistic and allow children to know about the body." They would learn how to react if they encountered such abuse - and not to abuse other children.
The department is tendering internationally for companies to produce the packs covering sex abuse, sexual violence and harassment.
Mr Chan said that there was a need for such education to protect children from sex abuse and incest as well as exposure to pornographic material, prevalent in Hong Kong. Reported child abuse cases have risen from 11 in 1990 to 229 last year. "We don't want to over-alarm them but just clarify what real sex abuse is," he said.
But Sophie Chu, chairwoman of Hong Kong Pre-School Playgroups Association,said: "I think two is far too young. It may promote an unhealthy interest in things children at that age should not be obsessed about. There is also a serious danger of creating false memories in children." She added that such lessons would not necessarily help pre-school children at risk of sex abuse.
The Hong Kong PPA says it encourages children to be mindful of strangers and will look out for signs of abuse, but does not support the idea of teaching the topic.
Legislator Emily Lau said: "Maybe two-years-old is too young because they may not be able to understand what it is about."
Mr Chan said teachers and parents would need to be prepared before lessons could start. "The obstacles should not prevent this being taught," he said. "Aged two is not too young. There is a general trend that sex education should begin as early as possible."