The British Guide Association has defended a program for girls aged 14 and older following criticisms in the press that the program handbook contains unsuitable material and wording.

The Guides' chief executive, Terry Ryall, defended the organization and the program in a statement, saying: "The Guide Association aims to be a progressive organization which recognizes what real life is like for its young members and listens to them. When we stop listening and responding appropriately within our moral code we will cease to exist."

The worldwide Guide movement—known in the U.S. as Girl Scouts—has its roots in the association started in 1910 by Robert Baden-Powell as an equivalent for girls of the Scout movement he developed for boys. From the start, the movement has had a strong moral basis, and in the U.K. the Guide Association operates under a moral code known as the Guide Promise and Laws.

But the British Guide Association is now caught in an argument between progressives and traditionalists as some members complain about a handbook produced as part of a program, known as Look Wider, for girls aged 14 and older.

The handbook is intended to be a tool for section leaders running personal development programs for Ranger Guides, numbering about 7,000 out of the Guide Association's U.K. membership of 700,000.

Some critics are unhappy with the book because it contains a picture of a young woman holding an unrolled condom. They also complained that it did not include the word "wife," using "partner" instead, and that "god" is mentioned without a capital letter.

One complainant pointed out that "husband" is mentioned but only in what she called "a curious case of reverse discrimination"—as "househusband."

The controversy ...

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