Our country is unique in pitting culture against science, prosperity, development and often-even logic. In the second most populated country in the world, with one of the highest rates of sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy, sexual maturity and education is still a taboo!
Aristotle says, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in diversity.” But what will the ornament be able to do if it is not complete? How will the prosperity be achieved? The half-baked inappropriate knowledge about sex is pretty much harmful to the youth in their teenage years. In India, many young men and women delay their marriages to pursue their careers, a result of rising education levels. However, when it comes to sex education, most people try to avoid the topic and prohibit discussions and later enter into marriages without any prior information.
Even though we are in the 21st-century, people still refrain from using the word sex and leave their kids hanging when asked about it. While actually, this should never be the case. As stated correctly by Swati Popat Vats, Education director of Podar Institute in ‘The Times of India‘, “even two-year-olds can be trained about good and bad touch. Children should be made aware of which parts of their body (others) can be allowed to touch and which not,” she said. According to her, instead of the words ‘sex education’, the topic can be termed ‘body intelligence.’ Thus the words you use won’t matter as long as they are fit enough to convey the meaning behind.
Justice L Narasimha Reddy once expressed his irksome views on the sex education program as “Introduction of sex education in high schools (adult education program), launched in 2005-06, has only spoiled the minds of children in the impressionable age. Parents have the responsibility to bring children on the right track”. He also said that decrease in the joint family system has resulted in insecurity in the minds of children. Sometimes the nuclear family system also leads to a communication gap between the child and parent and thus the child is unable to receive answers to his questions.
A study commissioned by the Indian Ministry of Women and Children Development and carried out by UNICEF and Prayas, a non-governmental organization, interviewed 12,247 children and 2324 young adults in 13 Indian states. The study revealed that a shocking 53% of children between 5 -12 years of age had experienced some forms of sexual abuse in India. That is nearly more than half of the children.
Without sex education children will not be able to recognize what happened to them. Parents, teachers, media and the Government can help to impart sex education among the children and the teenagers.
According to a recent study of THE DECCAN CHRONICLE, 99% of the cases of sexual assault among young boys are never revealed leading to a rise in such cases, i.e. In spite of the fact that laws such as Prevention of Children from Sexual Harassment (POSCO) have been introduced advocates indicate decidedly fewer cases coming into notice. “While people talk about many such incidents, they would not come forward to complain. Close to ten cases of women harassment get to Mahila courts, but the percentage is none or less when it comes to boys,” said advocate Shobana Murthy.
As Per UNICEF about 240 million women alive in India today were married before the age of 18 even though the average age of women at first marriage has increased to 20.6. Adolescent fertility usually occurs within marriage because of the early demand of reproducing soon after marriage. Therefore, 36% of children (aged 13–16) and 64% of adolescents (17–19 years old) are pregnant or already mothers.
Time to rise above the moral ‘Vedic’ compass
On 7th January 2014, the NATIONAL ADOLESCENT HEALTH PROGRAMME was launched by the central government to improve the sexual, mental and reproductive health. There have been many irrational concerns against sex education, consider a situation when BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu concluded that “sex education was against the ethos of our society and would uproot the cultural values that we have cherished since Vedic ages,” as reported by The Telegraph. People still think that sex education will only lead to increasing the rape count. What they are not realizing is that this mentality and thought process of the people will haunt them later.
Be it big stars like- Kalki Koechlin, Anurag Kashyap or Pamela Anderson all have passed through this phase of life, as stated by “The Tribune.”
So, it is important to teach both boys and girls about the good and the bad touch. Even today parents probably only teach their kids to be alert from strangers without warning their child that this attack can be from anyone be it family, friends or strangers.
A study on child abuse in India conducted by the ministry of child and women development states that out of boys 53% and 47% of the girls have come across or dealt with some form of sexual abuse. This rapidly emerging rape culture has to stop at the earliest with the help of education about sex.
According to ‘The Hindu,’ Government launched an Adolescence Education Programme(AEP) in CBSE schools which were rejected by parliamentary petitions committee. So it is not only important for the teachers and parent to be open-minded but also is mandatory for the officials to understand the importance and realize the need of the hour.
If the Indian journal of psychiatry is to be concerned, The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC, WHO), published guidelines in 2013 regarding rights of children and adolescents and issued instructions to recognize the particular health and development needs and rights of both the adolescents and young. WHO Report in 2014 titled “health for the world’s adolescents” further envisages it. Thus to bring this into action expert healthcare professionals must be brought into the picture to educate not only the students but also the teachers to help all of them to understand the need of the hour and make the teachers realize the importance of sex education.
Living in a hypocrite society, talking openly about sex is still a taboo in India. Lately, the HIV programs have laid stress on sex education in schools, but all efforts went in vain, especially in north India where there is a feeling that talking about sex is against the culture. Most of India’s population is conservative, and many assume that there is no need of any such education.
According to a recent UNICEF study, nearly 10 % of girls have been sexually abused, and 42% of them faced it before teenage, which is a shocking and alarming number and at the same time is a scary situation. In India, according to a survey, 53% of the children between 5 to 12 years of age are sexually abused, which is more than half percent of the total. And especially in such an age when they don’t even know what is happening to them.
India’s rate of teenage pregnancy is 62 teens out of 1000 pregnant ladies which is twice the count of US, thrice the count of UK and about ten times higher than Western Europe, which is a shocking revelation and an alarm for citizens of India to wake up and react quickly. According to The 2006 Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BSS), about 8.4% of the youth is sexually active. Hence it becomes all the more important for the youngsters to understand the what, why and how of it.
In the blog post for the Wall Street Journal last January, author Shanoor Seervai quotes Anju Kishinchandani, a sex educator in Mumbai, as saying: “In India, we don’t hesitate to have sex, but when we have to talk about it, it’s against our culture.” So Sex education is important so that teenagers can understand the changes their bodies are experiencing. It might give them a sense of responsibility to handle the situation maturely. But for this to happen we should know what to say and also guide our children towards the right path. So quoting a newspaper, we can say, “Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships rely on mutual consent, trust, transparency, and respect.” It goes on to say, “It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no”. So it is essential for students to be given the provision of sex education so that they can distinguish right from wrong and can save themselves and don’t stay confused. Thus if we can make people understand this and teenagers to comprehend this then as adults, we can consider our work finished.
Role of parents in imparting the sex education
As children come into their adolescence, parents should have a more open conversation about the puberty, menstruation, sex education and pregnancy. However, a lot of parents in India do not do so. According to a study, 42-52% of youth feel that they do not have adequate knowledge about sex. Some studies have also shown that parents do not think it is their responsibility to impart sex education and that the children would know on their own after their marriages.
Another survey of Mumbai colleges showed that 88% of the male students and 58% of the female students had received no sex education from parents. However, parents should understand it is their entire responsibility to ensure the safety of their children. Parents should discuss with their kids about the problems they are facing. If parents feel that their children are feeling awkward to have such conversations, they can take their children to the trained counselors. Counselors can counsel the children about the various issues, effect regarding the sex education.
Role of schools and teachers in imparting the sex education
Students spend most of the time in schools. The teacher plays a pivotal role in developing the personality of students. According to WHO, children who are 12 years and above should learn about sex education. Schools in India should take up the responsibility to educate the students about the proper touch and bad touch. They should teach about the use of contraceptives and other protection measures.
According to Dr. Archana Sharma, a clinical psychologist from Delhi, “Sex education falls under the category of health education.” Thus when the schools can provide the education of health and hygiene, it becomes essential that they also give sex education because it is a part of health education.
Role of the Media
Media is a useful tool which can be used to influence the sexual behavior among the teenagers positively. Press can help in positively changing the attitude of the youth.
Role of the Government
Sex education is a topic on which not only the parents and teachers but also the government has to work. In 2007, The Indian Government came up with the Adolescent Education Program. It is an initiative to empower the young people with the appropriate information, the right age and teach the positive attitude about the topic. It also aims at imparting adolescent reproductive and sexual health concerns.
In 2007, India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development promoted sex education curriculum, but it arose to a lot of controversies. Many people believed that educating the youth about sex and its effect on health would corrupt the young minds. They also thought that it is against the traditions of our Indian culture. Additionally, they also believed it would result in irresponsible behavior amongst the youth.
After lots of discussions and debates, they finally argued that sex education is a western concept and it has no place in India. They also said that these western construct should not force India. The outcome was many of the Indian states including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh banned the sex education program.
As it is rightly said,” A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” So being a significant support system, parents avoiding undercurrent of tension in the family, can prevent the child from any bad experience in his life by walking down the right path holding the other hand of the teacher. Hence, sex education should be imparted from high school onwards when a child becomes mature enough to understand the same and free from an undercurrent of tension in the family the acceptability of the parents, should be available to discuss any question about sex education.
We usually blame our government or our culture for the way we are, but we should not forget that we elect the government we have and we choose the lifestyle we have. So if we want to bring the change, we must start at home, after all, if we’re going to bring change, bring it first to your house, after all, everything is difficult before it becomes natural.
Sex Education Need of the Hour, Say Educationists. 20 Jan. 2013, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Sex-education-need-of-the-hour-say-educationists/articleshow/18095850.cms.
Sex Education in School Spoil Minds of Children: Andhra HC Judge. 29 Dec. 2013, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Sex-education-in-school-spoil-minds-of-children-Andhra-HC-judge/articleshow/28114922.cms.
Chennai: When Assaults on Boys Go Unreported. 13 June 2016, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/130616/chennai-when-assaults-on-boys-go-unreported.html.
“UNICEF India.” Child Marriage, http://unicef.in/Whatwedo/30/Child-Marriage.
Sex Studies in School? No, Say Elders. 10 June 2009, https://www.telegraphindia.com/1090610/jsp/nation/story_11089248.jsp.
Breaking the Silence. 6 Nov. 2016, http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/spectrum/arts/breaking-the-silence/318295.html.
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Case for Sex Education in Schools. 26 Jan. 2008, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/Case-for-sex-education-in-schools/article15151577.ece.National Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BSS) 2006. National Institute of Medical Statistics, National AIDS Control Organisation, http://naco.gov.in/sites/default/files/Youth_report_1.pdf.
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Alok Kumar, Asha Pathak, et al. The Problem of Child Sexual Abuse in India, Legal Lacuna and the Bill – PCSOB-2011. Vol. Vol. 34, No. 2, no. April-June 2012.
Palkki, Joshua. “Gender Trouble: Males, Adolescence, And Masculinity In The Choral Context.” The Choral Journal, vol. 56, no. 4, American Choral Directors Association, Nov. 2015, p. 24.
About the Author:
Born and brought up in a small city of Bihar Komal Sinha is blessed with a great zeal for writing that has brought significant changes around her. She pursued her graduation from Amity School of Mass Communication and is currently working as a freelancer. She has received awards on various occasions for her extraordinary literary talent. Her poem also got published in “Kadambini” magazine, and she’s also worked as an intern at NDTV. She firmly believes that hard work and the right attitude can make one rise above their capabilities.
What’s India of her dreams like?
A country where all the cultures flourish together, without the distinction of state, religion or economic status. A place where freedom of speech isn’t merely in a ‘book,’ but a right practiced in true essence by all. India of my dreams is where people are tolerant, supportive and understanding of each other, where fiction and art are valued and science is not hindered by traditions and culture. A place where fighting is prohibited but love is not. It is a country where everyone has equal opportunities, earned only by talent and hard work. It is a place where criticizing the government is not anti-national, and people are patriotic because of the love for the country not because of hatred towards a neighbor.