The word “sex” is still an interdicted subject to discuss among Indian families. My parents, like many others, never talked much about sex, and there was no internet when I was growing up to access information, either. The vast majority of my knowledge about sex, came after my school days. I still remember that my school teacher skipped the chapter about sex education, reproduction and birth control, which was unfortunate.
Things haven’t changed much over the years. Although, we are living in a modernised society in a lot of ways, we still have to overcome many of our taboos and prejudices. And I believe education is the key to achieve that.
India has the largest adolescent population (243 million with more than 50% of the adolescent population living in urban areas) in the world. This is the age group that spends the most time in school, and also the age group wherein youth go through several changes in their bodies and minds. This gives rise to curiosity and questions are asked to know more about these changes.
At such a time, it is crucial for this demographic to learn about the facts of life from accurate, supportive sources, instead of from inauthentic sources such as pornographic videos. This is the information that will bring down cases of teenage pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, and STDs; and can help them become more responsible and confident adults.
India is a hotbed of sexual abuse cases. The culture of violence is so entrenched that people younger than 18 too, have been found to perpetrate these crimes. For the present generation and the next to lead safe and secure lives, there is a need to ensure sex education is accompanied by an understanding of psychological and social implications of sex and reproduction, as well.
Yet, it is often believed that sex is a ‘dirty’ thing to discuss. Or something that need not to be discussed at all. This is one of the key reasons myths about sex, sexuality and reproduction are born.
Further, it contributes significantly to discrimination against women and girls. Early and forced marriages, violence and abuse thrive in such a culture of silence.
When girls are kept in the dark about their own sexuality, they suffer abuse at the hands of perpetrators, often within friend and family circles and lose their freedom to make decisions about their own bodies.
Moreover, lack of sex education can lead to greater instances of teenage and unwanted pregnancies and a rise in cases of STDs. StayTeen, an organisation working on sex education and preventing teen pregnancy, claims that students who receive formal sex education in schools are shown to first have sexual intercourse later than students who have not had sex education.
Given the status quo, it is evident that sex education should be mandatory, comprehensive, medically accurate, and taught as a lesson just like other school subjects. There’s also a dire need to promote the benefits of sex education in India – after all, sex education doesn’t encourage teens to have sex!
There should be a proper guide for teachers and parents, and some training from healthcare professionals to help them introduce the subject to adolescents properly. Further, we need to build a better education system where liberal education is pushed, and students are allowed to discover their passions and interests.
It’s our fundamental duty to educate the next generation, so the problems that we are facing currently will be minimised in the future.