Ducklings replace genitals in Turkish biology textbook

2014-11-12 19:53
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

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Istanbul - Pictures of human genitalia have been removed from a new edition of a standard biology school textbook in Turkey, sparking fresh criticism that the Islamic rooted-government is seeking to promote conservative values, a report said on Wednesday.

Diagrams showing the inner workings of the penis and vagina have instead been replaced by pictures of fluffy ducklings, cute polar bears and a human mother with her newborn baby, the Hurriyet daily said in its internet edition.

The pictures are in a chapter in the textbook "Reproduction, Growth and Development in Living Beings" taught in sixth grade classrooms throughout Turkey.

Abdullah Tunali, a leading psychologist and a former regional head of the teachers' union Egitim-Sen, found out that the images of male and female genitalia used to describe reproduction had been removed from the biology textbooks for the new academic year.

While last year's textbook contained explicit details of the anatomy and biology of human reproduction, the same page this year only contained mild images like the ducklings or dolphins, without any explanatory texts.

A number of sexually explicit words, such as "breast" or "virginity", have also been taken out.

Tunali told Hurriyet that the subject was now being taught "in a simplistic, superficial and hasty manner" and the material had been "heavily censored".

"In the past, the inner part of the genitalia was explained to children in a way that would be appropriate for their development, just like heart and kidneys were depicted," Tunali was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.

"Bu the science and technology textbook for sixth graders has been heavily censored this year, in line with the moral codes imposed by the government," he said.

The Islamic-rooted government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been accused of seeking to impose religion on Turkey's mainly Muslim but officially secular society as well as Islamising the education system.

Ahmet Zehir, professor of biology in Marmara University, said this type of censorship in biology classes does "more harm than good" to children.

"Why are these pictures being removed? Children already see them for real. They should learn about the opposite sex from the right source, which is textbooks.

"It will affect their whole life. Why do you do this to our children? Why this fear?"

The controversy is the latest dispute to shadow the government's education policies.

In September, the government allowed girls in high schools to wear the Muslim headscarf while banning the pupils from wearing tattoos or body piercings as well as the dyeing of hair and make-up.

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