A school book reignites the debate on homosexuality in Mozambique

The school book, titled ‘The Secret of Life’ | YouTube TV Miramar screenshot (taken by the author himself) Edited by Giovana Fleck

Images of a primary school textbook from the Mozambican school system began to circulate on Facebook on February 9, 2022, stirring debate and discord.

The book in question is about natural sciences and addresses, among many other subjects, themes about the nature of humans and evolution. Usually, its reading is recommended for children between 13–17 years old. The controversy did not fall on the entire textbook but on just one page.

This page recommended approaches to sexuality and sexual orientation. Some Mozambicans consider this subject inappropriate for children of that age. This book has been used without controversy for more than 15 years.

The page states that masturbation should be seen as a normal part of emerging sexuality and suggests homosexuality is a choice that belongs to the individual.

Such statements provoked homophobic comments online. On the pretext of care and protection, many users turned toward homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.

Here in Moz there will be war. This text is very wrong, it is biased and confuses a child's head! This term “homosexual friend” is what? And for the child to think that the little friend who plays with him is the lover? Leave the kids out of this.

Mozambican Facebook groups were also flooded with debates on the topic. This is what the user António do Rosário Grispos said:

Constou me que no livro da 7 classe, página 103, estão conteúdos de natureza homossexual. Ja houve discussão em Moçambique para introduzirmos matérias relacionadas com homossexualismo nos currícula das escolas? Talvez eu tenha andado distraído. Mas, na minha humilde opinião, um tema dessa natureza, carece duma discussão ampla da sociedade no seu todo, com anuência da casa que nos representa, que é a Assembleia da República.
No final de contas, sao as nossas crianças que estou a ser doutrinadas, e isso exige um debate sério, inclusivo e abrangente. Se já houve esse debate nacional, ficam aqui as minhas antecipadas desculpas.

I understand that in the 7th grade book, page 103, there are contents of a homosexual nature. Has there already been a discussion in Mozambique to introduce matters related to homosexuality in the school curricula? Maybe I've been distracted. But, in my humble opinion, a topic of this nature, needs a broad discussion of society as a whole, with the consent of the house that represents us, which is the Assembly of the Republic.

At the end of the day, it is our children that I am being indoctrinated with, and that requires a serious, inclusive, and comprehensive debate. If this national debate has already taken place, here are my apologies in advance.

This opinion was also defended by other users, who thought that by teaching children about sexuality, masturbation, and homosexuality, schools would encourage premature sexuality:

Moçambique nunca discutiu este tema e assumir uma posição, no entanto, alguém, ao arrepio das consultas aos pais e diversos sectores educacionais já decidiu que deve ensinar as crianças a fazerem.
Ensinem as crianças a respeitar as diferenças e a posição de cada um mas não influenciem a seguir o caminho, é imoral, é atacar um sector nevrálgico no país sem que tenham ouvido os vários sectores da sociedade sobre o tema. Vamos ter cuidado com temas sensíveis!

Mozambique has never discussed this issue and taken a position, however, someone, despite consultations with parents and various educational sectors, has already decided that they should teach children to do.

Teach children to respect the differences and the position of each one but do not influence them to follow the path, it is immoral, it is attacking a neuralgic sector in the country without having heard the various sectors of society on the subject. Let's be careful with sensitive topics!

However, there are those who had no issue with the text, ridiculing that the issue was stirring so much debate, even from the Ministry of Education:

You trying to justify why that content can't be in a 7th grade book is a joke.

Some people do not find any logic in prohibiting the subject from being discussed at school, especially since children have access to information about the same subject:

Sexual education, no.
But giving phones, tablets and computers without parental control, yes.

You all hypocrites.

The Ministry of Education gave a statement on February 11 to argue the controversial material should be removed from the school book, essentially banning discussions of sexual orientation and masturbation in the classroom.

Após a polémica que foi criada a volta do livro da sétima classe de Ciências Naturais que aborda de forma explícita temas sexuais como masturbação e orientação sexual, o Ministério da Educação e Desenvolvimento Humano veio a público explicar que o livro já existe desde 2004 e que o mesmo será retirado do currículo no próximo ano. O Ministério da Educação fez ainda saber que este ano os temas que estão a gerar polémica, não serão abordados nas aulas.

After the controversy that was created around the book of the seventh class of Natural Sciences that explicitly addresses sexual themes such as masturbation and sexual orientation, the Ministry of Education and Human Development went public to explain that the book has been in existence since 2004 and that the same will be dropped from the curriculum next year. The Ministry of Education also made it known that this year the topics that are generating controversy will not be addressed in classes.

Thus far, it is unclear how classes on sexuality and sexual health will unfold next year. After the Ministry's announcement, some claimed that the subject can and should still be taught, just in a different way.

The issue is not the relevance of the themes, but how they were addressed.
The language chosen was not the best.

Délio Zandamela, a student, argued that while there was no harm in discussing the topic, the  book failed to add adequate context.

Não existe nenhum problema em ensinar as crianças sobre sexualidade na escola, muito menos abordar questões ligadas a LGBT, muitas das posições extremas resultam da ignorância e do vazio que a educação deixou durante muitos anos em não abordar estas questões.
Aprender sobre sexualidade não é estímulo para fazer sexo, aprender sobre homossexualidade não é promoção dela, aliás não se ensina a ninguém a ser. Guardem vosso ódio, eduquem-se, não custa nada. Compreendo que o texto é problemático e vazio, esse é que deveria ser o debate e não discutir se pode-se ensinar ou não as crianças da 7a classe.

There is no problem teaching children about sexuality in school, much less addressing LGBT issues, many of the extreme positions result from ignorance and the void that education has left for many years in not addressing these issues.

Learning about sexuality is not a stimulus to have sex, learning about homosexuality is not promoting it, in fact, no one is taught to be. Keep your hate, educate yourself, it costs nothing. I understand that the text is problematic and empty, this is what should be the debate and not discuss whether or not you can teach 7th grade children.

After the initial statement from the Ministry of Education, teachers and civil society organizations have been largely silent.

However, there were those who suggested that the decision of the Ministry of Education created an opportunity for the country to debate the legalization of homosexuality in the country. Since 2015, homosexuality has been legal in Mozambique after reforms to the Penal Code.

Este livro da *7ᵃ classe do Sistema Nacional de Educação, pagina 103 merece um debate profundo, sobretudo no que a legalização da homossexualidade diz respeito, já que estes dias andamos a discutir nossa cultura… Nos meus tempos os livros não ensinavam essas matérias…. Quantos professores e professoras vão ignorar ensinar essas matérias…

This book from the 7th class of the National Education System, page 103, deserves a deep debate, especially regarding the legalization of homosexuality, since these days we are discussing our culture… In my time, books didn't teach these subjects …. How many professors will ignore teaching these subjects…

One of the main agents for this change is Lambda – an organization of Mozambican citizens that advocates for the recognition of the Human Rights LGBTQ+ people. Since 2007, Lamba has fought for the rights of the LGBTQ+ population and for her own legalization and recognition by the state. During the 2015 campaign, Lambda faced much push-back and was required to legally register with the Mozambican authorities.

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