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Let”s Talk About Sex! Why Is Sex Education In India A Distant Dream?

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By Neha Mayuri:

“Does sperm donation lead to infertility? Is it possible to get pregnant the first time you have sex?” A never ending list of unanswered questions goes on and on ceaselessly! These and several other questions aren’t just mundane queries, they are curiosities every youth deserves an answer to, through sex education!

“It can be awkward and clunky. A lot uncomfortable. May be even dreadful!” These and other similar thoughts revolve in the mind of parents when they imagine talking to their children about sex! But in reality- refusing to talk about it does more harm than good! When parents or guardians decide to talk about sex to their children, they need to understand the bigger picture. Talking about sex does not mean that one should make it a taboo, yes it’s about warning the youth about dangers of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections but it’s also about discussing the untouched subjects such as healthy relationships, self-worth, and knowing about one’s body!

sex education

Clearly, sex education is not a license to be sexually active. But, the silence around sexuality and the lack of sex education leads young people to seek information about their bodies and the sexual act from misinformed sources such as: peers, the media, badly written biology books and pornography! All one has to do is turn on television, surf the net, and one can become an easy spectator to sexual images and sexually themed media, unknowingly! When children are exposed to sexual imagery and language in their environment constantly through movies, society and other factors, it becomes naturally inevitable for them to be curious! Hence, the answers they receive about sexuality should clarify their doubts and not confuse them.

The phrase “Just Say No to Sex” does nothing except fuelling the fire! When you tell the young brigade not to do something without explaining why, they are going to do it anyway! This is basic human nature! It is far more justified, appropriate and sensible to inform them about sexuality and sex education so that they make judicious choices! It makes no sense leaving them in the dark with an ambiguous phrase “Just Say No”!

In 2009, a parliamentary committee rejected petitions on sex education in Indian schools, saying it is against “social and cultural ethos” of India! Many are intensely worried that providing too much information to youth on sex will encourage them to have sex! However, a study conducted back in 1993 by The World Health Organization of 35 sex education programs from around the world stated that there was no evidence that programs which were comprehensive when it came to sex education encouraged kids to be sexually active; it did not encourage them to have sex at an early age. It also stated that programs that taught abstinence only were less effective than the comprehensive sex education programs!

Furthermore, the WHO published a review of 1050 scientific articles on sex education programs. Researchers found “no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraception.” Failure to provide appropriate and timely information “misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is therefore, in the disservice of our youth,” This report was commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of Intervention and Development and Support, Global Programme on AIDS and the WHO.

Let’s talk about ancient India — don’t we easily recall “sex was never a taboo subject”! India created the Kama Sutra around 400 BC, ancient Indian temples such as Khajuraho and Vedic scriptures have discussed and explored sexuality in detail!

Deeming sex education unnecessary is downright dangerous and redundant! India is a democracy and each one has sexual rights. Yes, sexual rights! The current sex education classes in school are plainly focused on the biological aspects of sex which is simply superficial.

Sexuality is broader than sexual activity! It includes “all things” that defines us as girls, boys, men, and women. Shaped by culture, history, values, education as well as experience — our sexuality influences our views of individuality and everything in between! Sex education not only teaches someone about sexual intimacy but it also enlightens them about their reproductive systems, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and so on! After all, we do have a right to know our body, isn’t it? Sex education broadens our horizons to gender identity, gender role, body images, sexual expression and so on! It needs to be integrated into the lives of the youth in a very mature way by parents, teachers, and society, as they grow up.

Then, why is there a constant denial of right to knowledge about our own bodies? Why are we as a society, so afraid to talk about sex? Silencing not only leads to ignorance but also leads to sexism, misogyny, gender discrimination, chauvinism, patriarchal attitudes, sexual harassments, sexual assaults, and rape culture! Then, why is there a constant silencing of valuable information about sex and sexuality?

You must be to comment.
  1. K.B.Srivastava

    If we discuss regarding sex in our houses, our parents will object and if we go a park, police will arrest under majnu operation and if we book a room in a hotel, police will raid for prostitution. There are 80.8Cr young voters who mostly stay in hotels with their wives or girl friends, and I think that if they are raided for prostitution they will not vote the ruling parties. I have twitted the same and written to the Prime Minister and his office has written me that my letters are being reviewed. Actually prostitution is legal in India, but it is punishable on public places i.e. hospital, school, temple etc. and at a distance of 200 meters from a public place, it is not punishable. So if we want to have sex education, our parents will not allow..

  2. Saumya Sahni

    It is sad that we have not been able to overcome the taboos related to sex. It seems completely fair that a person goes on to develop major misconceptions about sex, but is out of our cultural ethos to discuss it with elders so that such we can prevent mishaps arising out of misconceptions. Someone might just consume the wrong contraceptives or assuming that she is pregnant might even commit suicide. Double standards and high levels of ignorance need to be checked.

    1. girish agrawal

      nice thaught !

  3. bansi dhameja

    I feel sex education is a must for each individual so that one is not carried away by myths and fancies and land up in problems.

    B.K. Srivastva is saying Quote If we discuss regarding sex in our houses, our parents will object and if we go a park, police will arrest under majnu operation and if we book a room in a hotel, police will raid for prostitution. There are 80.8Cr young voters who mostly stay in hotels with their wives or girl friends, and I think that if they are raided for prostitution they will not vote the ruling parties.UNQUOTE.

    Sex education is different than having sex. For sex education one does not need to book a room with a girl friend in a hotel and have the fear of being raided buy police.
    I am unable to understand what Mr. Srivastava want to convey.

    WE ARE COMING ACROSS CASES WHERE NOT ONLY ADULTS BUT JUVENILES ARE INDULGING IN ATROCITIES ON GIRLS WORSE THAN ANIMALS.
    Our educationists have to seriously think as to how to tackle sex education and sexual menace.
    Each one needs to think.

  4. bansi dhameja

    The fears expressed by Saumya Sahniare based on reality. I feel elders in the family have to play a very vital role. The mothers have to be the best friends for their daughters. and the daughter must treat her mother as the best friend. ONCE THIS STRONG BOND OF FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN A DAUGHTER AND HER MOTHER IS ESTABLISHED IT CAN NOT BE THAT THE DAUGHTER DOES ANYTHING WRONG FOR THE DAUGHTER WILL FEEL FREE TO DISCUSS ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING WITH HER MOTHER.

  5. Manan Grover

    A very basic thing that people have failed to understand is that if God created man and women and said that an intercourse between them would be necessary for producing progeny,then why talking about sex is such a taboo in the Indian society. The children today are so much connected in terms of television and world wide web, both of which have an influencing impact on their minds,hence right knowledge about sex should be imparted so that they do not make any wrong choices in life in the name of experimentation.

  6. Nitin

    For some reason the moment I saw headline, I knew it must have been written by a woman.

  7. sanober desnavi

    girla and boys should taught separately in the form of stories about good and bad touches other wise every girl will fall in depression of unopened sensitive .their are many men emotions and hunger for wombs so times make them unwisely illusion many more broken dreams river is flowing on with no boundries as the bird also chose their nest no body tell them where to make the nest and were not…………………

  8. siddharth

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF51E5nA5q8

    A surrogate advertisement…can you watch this with your parents/children?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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