In the land of Kamasutras, Khujarao’s Sex temples, and people worshiping ‘Shivlingas’, the word “SEX” still remains a taboo in India. For the Indian society, sex still remains a matter to be discussed inside the closed doors of bedroom instead of talking about it in public spaces to create more awareness. At the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which included India, the Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRRs) of adolescents and young people was affirmed. In the conference, it was understood that for the adolescents and the youth to be able to freely make informed decisions on all matters concerning their sexuality and reproduction, they require comprehensive education on sexuality. Therefore, as a part of their commitments under the ICPD agenda, governments are obliged to provide for free and compulsory comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and young people.
The Government of India initiated Adolescent Education Program (AEP) in 2007. However, the program was banned in majority of the states due to several protests and moral policing, citing that program’s content was ‘inappropriate’. Even after receiving negative headlines, AEP was rolled out in selective government/private schools without proper implementation. Though the program covers sensitive issues such as body image, violence and abuse, gender and sexuality, STIs, etc, it left out the thing of utmost importance the negotiation and consent required in intimate relationships.
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had issued a circular in 2005 chalking out a programme called the Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education (ARSH) project. The Central government released it in 2006 and since then several states have implemented the program with slight variations according to their own requirements.
In India, the question remains whether we have even reached the point where we speak the word freely without apprehension. Unfortunately, sex education in most schools even today is limited to the education of sex in reptiles and animals like toads, and when it comes to the point of teaching the students the portion where sex in human being is involved, the teacher generally just breezes through with just the basic introduction to the reproductive parts. In fact, some schools in the name of imparting sex education conduct workshops on health and hygiene.
Why Is Sex Education Important At The Right Age
Sex education aims to
- Build a robust foundation for lifelong sexual health. This is done by obtaining information and attitudes, beliefs and values about one’s identity, relationships, and intimacy.
- Sexual health is regarded as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality and not just the lack of disease or infirmity as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- During adolescence (12–19 years) its provision is an important preventative tool, as it is the convenient time when young people experience developmental changes in their physiology and behaviour as they enter adulthood.
Sex education is needed for various reasons
- It is of utmost importance that teenage girls and boys understand the changes that their bodies undergo when they reach adolescence and this is possible only when sex education is imparted.
- Both the girls as well as the boys need to understand all about menstrual cycle; so that the girls learn to accept it as a normal role of nature; and the boys do not get grossed out by periods, tampons and sanitary pads and learn early in life to be sensitive to this issue.
- An awareness about sex will also create an awareness about pregnancies and other related issues including safe sex and diseases like Sexual Transmitted Disease (STD) and Human Immuno Virus (HIV). According to WHO, the age group of 12 to 19 years counts for some 34 per cent of the HIV-infected persons in the world.
- Sex education will make the young more responsible and thus they will take the decision of having sex with full knowledge of the possible outcome instead of indulging in it out of curiosity and without any information thus bearing the brunt of the repercussions.
- The young will not be inhibited about buying contraceptives which is a very important aspect.
- Sex education is vital because the young learn the concept of consent and what constitutes/does not constitute rape/assault.
- Last but not the least, victims of child sexual abuse will understand that something wrong is being done to them and will be able to communicate to their parents the untoward incident. A study by the Department of Women and Child Development shows that some 53 per cent of children in the country have been victims of some kind of sexual abuse.
Keeping in mind the changing dynamics of the society in India, the Government of India has brought out the National Education Policy, 2016, which accepts the significance of sex education in schools for adolescent for safety measures. It remains to be seen if this policy will be implemented this time over. It is about time that the educators realise that half-baked, incorrect knowledge about sex can be dangerous and it is better for the adolescent to be aware and prepared.
Please Note : This article has been written by viji Athreye on Jun 15, 2017. The information contained in this article has been recently updated.