“Let’s talk about Sex.” Now, that’s a phrase not usually spoken aloud in Indian households. In fact, a statement like this is guaranteed to fetch you a few frowns and raised eyebrows from the family elders and the colony aunties. This is so because in our society, sex, like menstruation, is a taboo, and is mentioned in hushed tones, behind closed doors and also in codes. Our collective aversion to sex is such that we don’t educate our children about it, hoping they learn about sex by themselves, which does not bode well for the society at large.
Sex education is a broad term used to describe educating people about the human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of what comprises human sexual behaviour. The purpose of sex education is to answer the questions that the youth, who are entering adulthood, may have regarding the changes taking place in their bodies. This discussion becomes important in every society, and especially in a country like India, where rape numbers keep rising and molestation goes unrecorded.
Why is Sex-Ed Important?
In a country like India, where more than 4 million people are infected with HIV, and cases of rape, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions are in plenty, it is important to impart sex education to the youth as it teaches them about their bodies and its anatomical know-how.
One of the main purposes of sex education is to provide a comprehensive study of healthy sexual practices and awareness regarding the same. Not only does it guarantee knowledge but also leads to improved attitudes related to reproductive health and behaviour.
The need for sex education becomes more important, given that the present generation has easy access to internet and can be deceived easily with misinformation. Therefore, providing sex education becomes very important so that they have the correct information and knowledge about matters like safe sex, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, among others.
Sex education teaches individuals to take care of themselves from a very young age. From advising young girls on issues about periods, contraceptives, and vaginal care to teaching boys about consent, use of condoms and teen sex, sex education covers all the basics. It teaches men and women to not abide by stereotypical roles of their gender and also about sexuality, which goes beyond the pre-established boundaries.
A common misconception with respect to sex education is that it encourages sex. Perhaps, this is the reason why some states in the country, like Maharashtra, have banned sex education from their school curriculum. However, the central government has taken some initiatives to curb the spread and misinformation regarding problems like sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) was started by the Government of India in 1992 in an effort to prevent and control the spread of HIV/ AIDS and to make people aware about this disease. Given the increase in population figures, the Government also made efforts to make people conscious of the importance of family planning, whose primary objective is to lower fertility rates and reduce population growth.
The Way Forward
A common question about sex education is regarding the age at which it should be imparted and how? We believe that it should be imparted to all young people and started from the grassroots and at the school level, and both parents and teachers should be involved in this process. But this can only happen if the public perception of sex is changed and we realize that young people have the right to a healthy and informative life. NGOs and other clinical-based organizations can be partners and be made in charge of spreading awareness regarding sex education.
Sex education helps build healthy and respectful sexual relationships between individuals and can help break traditional gender roles and end sex discrimination. Sex can be complicated. Not being able to talk about it doesn't make it any easier. So, if there's a way of working around it, we say we go get it!