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Sex Education: A Need For Upcoming Generation

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Sex education means the introduction of concept regarding sexual reproduction and sexual feelings. It is a systematic study of the gradual development of body, sexuality and relationships in school. It aims to help young people to communicate and make the correct decision regarding sex and their sexual health.

Need for Sex Education

Our schools teach our children everything they need to know to succeed — right? Intensive classes, exams to help them get into the best universities in India and abroad and even extra out-of-school tuition so they can compete with their global peers. What is the need to teach our kids’ sex education? If anything, it will distract them from their studies and put wrong ideas in their heads.

Well, when we watch our children, what we see is a safe, simple world — our kids go to school, study and do their extracurricular activities. In reality, there is a lot of turmoil going on inside the adolescent mind. 

Take an average adolescent girl in India — she gets little information on her menstrual cycle so feels confused and embarrassed every month on her period, regularly gets harassed on the street and then goes to school and does not know if it’s ok or not ok to talk to the boy she likes in class. If she faces some sort of sexual abuse from her teacher, she’s scared that she will get blamed if she speaks up — and she does not even have the words to say what has happened to her.

It’s a similar situation for the average adolescent boy. Also, he is usually consuming a lot of pornography, shaping his perceptions about girls and women. Adolescents these days are battling deep insecurities, facing challenging social situations with no easy answers and getting a flood of vulgar, sexist and misleading information from the media which is usually their only source of information about how to interact with the world. All of these factors are having a strong effect on our kids and shaping them into the adults; they will be in the future.

How do we combat this to create young adults who are confident in who they are, understand how to interact with each other in healthy and respectful ways and are staying safe? It’s hard to have these conversations with kids because we do not know exactly what they are facing or what to say to them.

Sex education is a complex topic, so it has to be handled with care.

Contrary to what people think, that is exactly what sex education is. It is not about teaching children how to have sex — it is about informing them about what is happening in their bodies and also teaching them to make safe, healthy choices as they grow up. It is also about helping them understand that the messages they are getting from Bollywood or pornography are not realistic and can be harmful. Instead, it is about helping them come to their conclusions about what it means to be a successful, interesting boy or girl.

Roles of Parents and Schools in Sex Education

In this era, rapes are increasing daily. One of the reasons for it can be a lack of sex education. In India, we are not getting sex education as awkwardness and ignorance from parents as well as from school. Information regarding sex, pregnancy and contraception should be provided to children and adolescents in an age-appropriate manner from parents and schools. For children, it is necessary to understand the difference between good touch and bad touch. 

Sex education is a complex topic, so it has to be handled with care. And in this process schools can play a very vital role. Teens go to school to get an education and school is a huge factor in growing their mindset and shaping their future. So, if they get to know about sex education from their growing stage, the whole scenario of rape in India can change as they will know what is wrong and what is right.

Also, the family atmosphere is very important as children adopt many things from their homes. Parents have to listen to them and make them understand what it is and why they required it. Parents have to look after their child’s life and what they are facing. Also having healthy talks with them and making them understand is important. Schools can have a special sex educator and conducting seminars can create a huge change. 

Kind of Sex Education to Different Types of Age Groups

  • Awareness:

The paediatrician should encourage early parental discussion with children at home about sexuality, contraception and Internet and social media use that is consistent with the child’s and family’s attitudes, values, beliefs and circumstances.

  • Gender wise:

Diverse family circumstances, such as families with same-sex parents or children who are identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Create unique guidance needs regarding sexuality education.

  • Stabilise converse:

Modelling ways to initiate talks about sexuality with children at pertinent opportunities, such as the birth of a sibling, can encourage parents to answer children’s questions fully and accurately. Parents and adolescents are encouraged to receive information from multiple sources, including health care providers and sexuality educators, about circumstances that are associated with earlier sexual activity. 

Adolescents are encouraged to feel empowered through discussing strategies that allow for practising social skills, assertiveness, control, and rejection of unwanted sexual advances and cessation of sexual activity when the partner does not have consent.

  • Proper use:

Discussions regarding healthy relationships and intimate partner violence can be effectively included in health care visits. Paediatricians are encouraged to acknowledge that sexual activity may be pleasurable but also must be engaged in responsibly.

  • Regulatory:

Specific components of sexuality education offered in schools, religious institutions, parent organisations, and other community agencies vary based on many factors. The paediatrician can serve as a resource to each.

  • Age-wise:
You as a parent should discuss with your child how to use a digital world.

Age 2–5: in this age group parents can do like telling them about bad touch and good touch. Saying like this is not good and awarding them. 

Age 6–8: You as a parent should discuss with your child how to use a digital world. Also, make them aware of the pornography world so that they don’t misunderstand anything. 

Age 8–12: Children often worry whether they’re “normal” — particularly when it comes to penis size and breast size. Explain what happens during puberty for both boys and girls.

Teenage: If you’ve established yourself as open to discussing those topics, “your kids are probably going to feel more comfortable talking to you and asking you questions”, says Thornhill. At this age, you should start interacting more with your child so that they can be on a good path with the help of sex education. 

Offer reassurance that children of the same age mature at different rates. Puberty might begin years earlier — or later for some children, but eventually, everyone catches up. You might want to share experiences from your development, particularly if you once had the same concerns that your child has now.

Pros and Cons of Sex Education

Each thing has its pros and cons. Similarly, sex education also has both. Let us look into it.

Pros:

  • Sex education can also become the answer to many hormonal changes, which happens in the body.    
  • Sex education can also help to solve child sex abuse, as they will be aware of good touch and bad touch. 
  • It is good to teach them in school, as they will be having a guide, who can make them understand. 
  • If they are aware of it, then they will not do any immature thing or the wrong thing. 

Cons:

  • Right now the teachers who are teaching at many schools, they are not expert in this field. So there is a high risk that students will get things wrong. And the wrong thing can be very much harmful. 
  • If sex education is not taught properly, then a student can take it for granted or not follow it. 
  • In most of the school, sex education is not yet the primary subject, so that’s also a reason, students won’t consider it to learn. 

Conclusion

“Helping kids understand that they have a gut, an inner voice, and they can and should listen to it, is a big part of what sex education is about.” – Cory Silverberg. 

At the right time and in the right way, sex education can be very helpful. It is necessary to keep a healthy conversation between parent and child. Also, schools have a vital role, as well. Sex Education is as necessary as education and morals for a better future.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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
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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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