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It’s Time India Discussed Sex Education With Its Children

Shhh! ‘Sex’ is a forbidden word in Indian society much like the name Voldemort is in Harry Potter. You are not even allowed to read it in your mind, because it will implode your Indian morals and values. It’s an interesting fact that even though we don’t have sex here, we are competing with a population of 1.3 billion people. It’s all by God’s grace: after our psychological drama called ‘marriage’, we pray to God and God puts a baby in the tummy. Hooray! That’s how we have a baby, but if it’s a girl child, we realise that God is not happy with us, and think that he has cursed us with a baby girl and eventually we kill her. Tada! We don’t talk sex here, even though we live in a country which is world famous for the Kamasutra. Sex is against our morals. This is the great Indian society we are part of.

In India, 62 out of every 1,000 pregnant women are a teenage girls: this figure is double that of the U.S.A (although they are “westernized people”). Fifty three percent children between ages five and 12 have been subjected to sexual abuse. Every 15 minutes, a child is getting abused, which means that by the time you read this, an innocent soul would have been toyed with. You talk about Indian values, now hear this: in around 90% of the reported cases the culprits are close relatives, friends and family members including the child’s own grandfather, uncle, aunt and sometimes even the father. Forty underage girls are forced into the life of prostitution every single day.

Oh, Thank god! See, I have always told you that the girl child is a boon to the family. But, did you know that of the 53% children that are being abused in India, 57.3% are boys? More than half of the child-abuse victims are boys. Are you sure your child is safe even if he is at home? Just do one thing – dig up a small hole, bury your child inside it with the dreams you had for him, the gifts you bought for him, the memories you made with him and yes don’t forget to add his Indian morals and values. Instead, if you want to save your child, give him/ her sex education!

Chart showing crime against children

Sex education is a taboo topic in India and is primarily considered a western construct. We are always forbidden from doing things we don’t understand. Sex education never teaches you to have sex at an early age, instead it teaches you about the biological need of a human body; it teaches how it is normal to get attracted to another person, be it emotional or biological. It teaches you the importance of looking at your own body, learning to protect yourself, and understanding the natural process that is sex.

Chart showing the reason for increasing rape cases in India

Prevention is a ton better than cure. Around 0.26% of Indian adults are diagnosed with HIV infection amongst which 67% are men. Sex education teaches your child the pros of having safe sex and avoiding unwanted pregnancies. It also talks about biological aspects like menstruation. As a typical Indian boy, I never understood the miseries and sufferings of menstrual cramps that women go through until I was committed to a romantic relationship. For boys, it’s very easy to criticize girls for talking about their cramps because of the way the Indian society brought us up. Not just boys, even girls consider menstruation a sin. Understand that the greatest ability that a human being possesses is to bring a new life into this world and women are blessed by God. We mortals have a god whom we can cry to, feel, and touch, called ‘mother’. Whatever a man does in this world, he will never be able to indulge in the divine emotion called motherhood. Hence, motherhood is never a sin, it’s a blessing.

Will I get pregnant if I kiss? Does the HIV virus spread through a kiss? These are some of the many questions Indian youth circulate around internet out of helplessness. “This is not your age to understand this, don’t talk about these things, not even at home or elsewhere, don’t even think about the S word,” is what parents give us for “sex education” in India.

Tell me something, when was the last time you used the Pythagoras theorem or Bernoulli’s principle? Ok, let that be! When was the last time you used (a + b)2. Not a clue, huh? I am sailing in the same ship. Let’s see if you remember this: when was the last time you spoke to your best friend about sex, watched porn, heard about child abuse, or rape? Quite often, right? This basic life science is what we call sex education. Today or tomorrow, your child will enter this arena, and it’s not like your child is born, brought up, and on his divine “first night”, he gets introduced to a new process called sex. Grow up parents! Half knowledge is very dangerous. Is it better if you tell us about this or would you rather have us learn from our friends and porn sites that we watch out of curiosity?

Despite blocking 3,500 porn websites, 35-40% content downloaded from the internet in India is pornography. Kerala, the state with the highest literacy rate, ranks highest in watching child porn, and Haryana and UP top the overall viewership ratings of porn.

How wicked is India: The 8-year-old Kathua gang rape victim was trending on porn websites.

In such a scenario, it is essential to remember that trained faculty, proper syllabus, and open-minded parents will lead to a better future. Sex education should not be an option that one can opt out of in schools and colleges. It is extremely important to talk about the natural process called sex, teach children the importance of understanding every gender, respecting women, and not getting addicted to senseless blue films which provide nothing useful for the human experience. Teach your child to be confident and love themselves, to love every human being as they are, and to understand biological needs such as sex, menstruation, etc.

“God has not put the little baby in your mom’s tummy, there is a baby in the tummy because your parents love each other and they had sex to bring you into this world.”

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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