Charity defends workshop after student complaint

Charity defends workshop after student complaint

A Christian charity that conducts sexuality and relationship education workshops in schools has defended its programmes, after a student said it promoted gender stereotypes.

Agatha Tan, 17, a first-year junior college student at Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), attended a workshop in school last Friday run by Focus On The Family Singapore, a pro-family Christian charity.

She has written to HCI principal Hon Chiew Weng, saying that the workshop "seemed to emphasise and enforce traditional gender roles in a relationship".

She referred to a booklet given to students, which said girls need to feel loved, can be emotional and have a "deep need for her boyfriend to find her beautiful".

The booklet also said boys are "visual", and that a "guy can't not want to look", and they have a desire to "visually linger on and fantasise about the female body".

In her letter, Agatha said the booklet "paints girls as hopelessly dependent beings who are incapable of surviving without guys".

Calling it an "extremely sexist view", she said it "not only trivialises girls' problems, but also serves as a foundation for the further boosting of the male ego".

Agatha has made the letter public on her Facebook page.

It has been shared more than 1,000 times since it was put up early yesterday morning.

But Focus On The Family Singapore - approved by the Ministry of Education to run sexuality education programmes in schools - said the workshop that Agatha attended is not a sexuality education programme.

"It is designed to be a relationship programme to help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships," said its head of corporate communications, Ms Vicky Ho.

She added that Focus On The Family Singapore is in touch with "the relevant parties" to address Agatha's concern.

Ms Ho said the programme curriculum is based on "well-researched material by various trusted family life and relationship experts", but did not provide more details on who they are.

She also did not provide details on the number of schools the organisation currently works with to deliver such workshops.

This article was first published on October 8, 2014.
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