'Sexist' workshop for students to cease by year-end: MOE

'Sexist' workshop for students to cease by year-end: MOE
Miss Agatha Tan had written an open letter to her principal, saying that the booklet that the workshop organiser distrbuted "actively serve to promote rape culture in school".

A workshop on managing relationships for junior college students, which has been under mounting criticism this week for being sexist and promoting gender stereotypes, will stop by the end of the year, The Straits Times reported.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has said that the workshop is not an MOE sexuality education programme. It "is run by one of the providers appointed by MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development) to conduct workshops on healthy relationships for junior college students."

MOE said that the workshop "aims to educate students on healthy relationships and equip them with social and relationship management skills". It added that the workshop will cease its run by end-2014, without giving any reasons.

The workshop has come under fire for being sexist and for perpetuating gender stereotypes, after Miss Agatha Tan, a 17-year-old Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) student, wrote an open letter to her principal to criticise the workshop, ST reported.

ST said that more than 300 people who said they were former Hwa Chong Institution students have signed a petition calling for the workshop to be cancelled.

Workshop 'actively promote rape culture in school'

In her open letter, Miss Tan said that she learnt a "simple yet important lesson: That bigotry is very much alive and it was naive of me to think I could be safe from it even in school", just from flipping through a booklet provided by Focus on the Family Singapore (FotF), the organisation running the workshop.

The workshop, "It's Uncomplicated", is an opt-out course for junior college students, which Miss Tan said that all students in her year of study had to attend.

In the open letter to her principal, Miss Tan said that what she considered the most pressing concern she had about the course was that "the booklet actively serve to promote rape culture in school".

She said that "on the cover page of the booklet itself, it is written, 'no means yes?' and 'yes means no?'. The facilitators from FotF neglected to mention that thinking a girl means 'yes' when she says 'no' is actually completely wrong. Rather, they spent their four hours with us discussing things such as what a girl 'really means' when she says something else, as opposed to guys who are 'direct' and 'always mean what they say'".

She also took issue with the attitude that the facilitators of the workshop adopted towards people who didn't fit "into their binary model of a nuclear family".

"When someone else tried to raise that the facilitator's views were too narrow and that they failed to consider, for instance, LGBTQ or polyamorous individuals, he effectively shut her down by saying that her views were not what the audience wanted to listen to and that perhaps she could remain quiet for now and bring it up with him afterwards so they could end the first half of the course for break, which was coming up 'very soon'," she wrote.

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