Sex education for childrenIn a fast changing society which is growing economically, some mindsets are still caught in a regressive trap. Call it a lack of exposure or adhering to peer pressure, education on issues like consensual sex and rape are still taboo in certain sections of Indian society. Mixed reactions to ‘India’s Daughter’, the documentary on Nirbhaya, has left some aghast at it being made, while others believe Indians need to watch it, to know the roots of evil mindsets. Documentary filmmaker Leslie Udwin interviews one of the accused, Mukesh Singh, and the perpetrator’s lawyers. The derogatory comments made, showcase their regressive mindsets while sticking by their beliefs of being right in their thinking. On the other hand, Nirbhaya’s male friend speaks progressively about Nirbhaya as a girl and women at large.

If it is about penetrating the grassroots of regressive mindsets, does the blueprint of sex education in Indian schools need to be redrawn? Recent news reports talk about the British Government planning consensual sex lessons for 11-year-old students in schools, enabling them to make informed choices and stay safe. The Government believes it will prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. Why 11-year-old students? Because it is about moulding mindsets before they are aware about their sexuality.

Will the same strategy work in Indian schools? Says Kolkata based psychologist Paromita Mitra Bhaumik, “Sex education should have a scientific basis and be age appropriate, otherwise it creates more harm than good. Students should be ready for it and 11 is the right age. To eliminate the fear factor, a psychologist or counsellor should tell them, not a teacher or Principal. There should be complete freedom”. The impression created on impressionable minds during school years remains embedded lifelong. Bhaumik, a mother of a son and a daughter, adds how boys often pick up from school, how having many girlfriends equals to being a stud while for a girl having several boyfriends equals being open for new, probably flirtatious, relationships. Therefore going beyond the roots of a child’s environment at home, the overall upbringing also includes what a child picks up at school.

In schools run by a conservative administration, sex education is a subject often not broached and it is their experiences that shape student’s beliefs of right and wrong in order to protect them. But when these same students are exposed to a harsher world at the workplace and often have failed love affairs to the point of feeling used or sometimes are in a precarious situation, they are caught off guard and unable to shirk off the guilt. India is developing economically, wanting to be at par with the West. In yesteryears, women had the potential to excel if they only went out to work, but safety was a big factor and hence, they lost out on economic independence.

Today things have changed and more and more women are going out to work. Children are exposed to television, the internet age and the uber cool culture. Exposure to sex is no longer inaccessible to children in India and peer pressure can be a heavy term if impressionable minds are not educated adequately. This education begins at home but it is the school too where it goes beyond the bookish knowledge. It is about knowledge in it’s entirety, an overall finish that adds finesse as children begin their journey into a harsher world. It is not just about women, but about two different individuals. “All of us have different sexual ethics which is a culmination of our personality, past experience, morality of parents and society at large”, says Baumik. So introducing lessons related to consensual sex in schools could be a boon if welcomed with an open mind.

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