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Not A Nasty 3 Letter Word: Why Sex Education Helps Us Grow

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The other day, my friend and I went out for a movie. We sat for lunch and in between all the gossip, we somehow stumbled onto the topic of sex, and realised that we knew very little about it. What is worse is that we felt ashamed for even talking about it. That’s how Indian brains have been hard-wired from time immemorial. Sex is such a frowned upon word. It’s high time that that mindset changes.

In a country like India, where arranged marriages still exist and boy-girl friendships are seen as taboo, it should come as no surprise that sex education is off-limits. Because of this, many young adults are deprived of the proper facts about their bodies and end up in undesirable places.

What Is Sex Education?

Sex education implies learning more about human development, sexual behaviour, and sexual health. Sex is a natural part of any allosexual person’s life (a person who experiences sexual attraction towards any gender), and, eventually, they are going to want and have sex. There, I said it. In countries like the UK and the USA, people are much more open about this, and parents willingly give their children “the talk” at a young age. In India, on the other hand, parents are so embarrassed to even say the word, that children grow up thinking that sex is frightful and nasty.

Why Is Sex Education Important?

Curiosity is one of the main reasons behind an active interest among the youth to “watch porn”. Let’s not kid ourselves, every single one of us at some point would have opened an adult website just to see what people actually do during sex. It’s natural to have questions.

A ban on sex education will only increase mindless porn viewership. Students want to know the what, how, and why of sex. If they were given the proper information in schools in the first place, maybe we’d have fewer porn addicts.

Sex education also teaches students about various dangerous STDs like AIDS and syphilis. STDs are on the rise, mainly in rural India, like the villages of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, because children are ill-informed of the side effects of unsafe sex. One of these side effects is rape culture. Just think: If sex education was allowed in schools, could rape have been prevented? Maybe not entirely, but many rapes could have been, and India would not be categorised as a “rape country”.

Sex: The Forbidden Fruit

India’s current population is 1.3 billion people, which means we are pretty familiar with the concept of reproduction, yet the word “sex” makes people jittery and nervous. In any biology textbook these days, there is always a chapter on reproduction, with sufficient pictures on the respective reproductive organs, and the fertilisation of the egg with the sperm to form the zygote. But it ends there. And the main question on every student’s mind is, “HOW did the sperm come in contact with the egg?

Why does the school syllabus not cover one of the most important topics on this subject? Why do people shy away from it? One answer: It brings shame upon those who dare to speak about it. Let me give you an example of an incident that happened in my biology class long ago. Our teacher had reached that page in the textbook which talked about the mammary glands (breasts) and instead of being mature about it, she skipped that page. Just a mere mention of a concept connected to the study of the female human body threw her off, and she flushed in embarrassment. This feeling of embarrassment is what gets passed down from generation to generation and ultimately results in a vicious cycle of awkwardness and unease. Removing the stigma off of sex education is a step forward in the right direction.

Dear Indian Government, Wake Up!

The Indian Government should take more forceful action to see to it that children are provided sex education. But we can’t entirely blame the Indian Government for the lack of education on the subject. In 2007, a sex education curriculum was promoted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, but was deeply opposed by many states, resulting in controversy. Many state governments argued that sex education would tarnish a child’s pure upbringing and encourage promiscuity and prostitution among the youth. As a result, many states like Gujarat, Kerala and Goa banned sex education in schools.

This ban affects people in more ways than one.

Ellen DeGeneres came out about her sexuality in her sitcom which aired on April 30, 1997. Reportedly, there were many protests by certain groups of people to drop the episode and not air it on television. That particular episode garnered much publicity nonetheless. 21 years later, it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made. She got the life she wanted.

The reason I bring this up is because there are so many kids in India who are made to feel insecure about their sexual orientation and are just plain scared to admit it, lest they be shunned from society. Instead, if they are provided with the proper guidance and support, they would be in a much happier place. Teen suicides are also attributed to mistaken sexualities. Issues like these bring to light the dire need for sex education in schools.

Give Us Our Right To Education!

The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one,” said Malcolm Forbes, the publisher of Forbes magazine.

Sex education should be made mandatory, not just for children but also for adults. The adults should be aware of the sex education curriculum and realise that depriving their child of it is only going to make matters worse. Let’s move into a future where it is okay to talk about sex with your mother or your grandfather. Let’s pave the way for a new India.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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