Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Sex education in India is a controversial topic. Sexual intercourse is still considered a taboo in many parts of this country and sex-ed in schools, when provided, fail to provide adequate information which leaves the youth completely unprepared for their sexual lives. For fear of being ostracized by family or friends, most people remain ignorant about sexual health issues and do not engage in safe-sex practices. Despite the high number of unsafe abortions performed annually -- 97% of these are performed outside medical facilities -- Indians remain seriously under-informed about contraceptive options available to them. According to a study conducted by Guttmacher Institute, up to 30 million women have an unmet need for modern contraception.
The lackluster state of Sexual Education in India: Sexual education, if provided at all in schools, remain inadequate. Sexuality is merely portrayed as a means for reproduction, rather than an integral part of human nature. The quality of sex-ed classes is substandard with teachers themselves having little-to-no knowledge about contraceptives, STDs, or sexual behavior. The few private initiatives that do strive to provide sex-ed are often shut down by authorities. As a result, there is no official program for comprehensive sexuality education in any school curriculum.
Conversations around sex remain hushed and restricted to bedrooms. This deters young adults who may want to discuss various aspects of their sexuality with parents or doctors. Even medical professionals are uncomfortable discussing issues related to sexual functioning or contraception. There is a striking lack of awareness about STDs, contraceptives, or legal rights. Thus, it is no surprise that sexual education remains a taboo subject in India.
The current state of sexual education has pushed many young adults to seek answers outside the realm of their families and teachers. Sexuality-related information is readily available on porn sites. However, there is a stark difference between what people learn from these websites and the relative safety of school sex-ed classes. Porn often delves into the unrealistic expectations that it creates for youth, who then feel that they cannot measure up. It also downplays protection, such as condoms and contraceptive pills, leading to an increase in number of unplanned pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
More than half of the Indian youth turn to pornography for sexual education. Sexuality has always been a topic surrounded by myths, taboos, and ignorance. Sex or similar topics are not discussed in schools and thus most young adults — who learn about sex through friends or pornographic websites — believe in what is fed to them. Sexual imagery peddled on porn sites fuels misconceptions and preys on insecurities. There is little chance of such websites providing any accurate information.
The Government's role: The irony of the situation lies in the fact that if adolescents were given access to better sexual education, several ills plaguing society today would vanish overnight. This lackluster approach towards educating our youth comes out clearly when we consider the role of the government. Sexual education remains a non-priority and ignored by all political parties.
The need for Sexual Education: Sexuality is a topic which should be discussed candidly and without inhibitions in schools just as any other biological concept such as nutrition, hygiene, or other body functions. Sex education needs to move beyond teaching youth how to apply contraceptives, towards providing them with knowledge on their bodies and consent. This will go a long way in creating awareness about sex and reducing instances of rape, child abuse and other crimes against women. Sexual education merely covering reproductive biology does not work because it fails to answer questions related to puberty, menstruation, masturbation, oral intercourse, or homosexuality that people tend to ask at that age. Sex education remains a vital part of an adolescents' development and should be made compulsory at all levels.
The need for comprehensive Sexuality Education: Sexuality is often considered to be an awkward topic, especially in India, where we tend to avoid it as much as possible. Sexuality becomes more than biology or physiology – it becomes psychology, sociology, and culture – all rolled into one. That's why Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is essential because unlike biological sex education, which can be taught without addressing social aspects such as sexual orientation or gender identity, sexuality deals with these topics intrinsically. It is necessary that teachers are well-equipped to deal with these topics sensitively and impartially.
Impact of Sexuality Education on Sexual Health: Sexual education has contributed directly to the dramatic decrease in teenage pregnancy. Sexual education has also helped prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among youth through awareness about condom use. Sexual education can help young adults take informed decisions about their bodies. A study by Durex found that 95 percent of Indian respondents said they would be interested in receiving information on sexuality. The need for comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is not just restricted to schools but also colleges and universities across India. Many students are exposed to Internet pornography, which can influence their perceptions significantly, causing unplanned pregnancies or even rape. CSE is therefore a must for all young adults.
How can Sexuality Education be made compulsory: With the increasing number of cases of harassment and abuse against women, it has become essential that Sexuality Education should form part of school curriculum as early as possible. Sexual education must cover topics such as puberty, menstruation and other aspects related to health and hygiene. The youth today is sexually active and there is an urgent need to impart information about relationships, love, respect, and consent. Sexuality needs to be discussed within the family first, before impacting society at large through mass media or other means. Sexuality education can also help break down inhibitions and stigmas attached with sex to create a more open-minded generation that will take better care of themselves and others. Sexuality education must be made compulsory for both, students as well as teachers. Teachers are often ill-equipped to address these issues. Sexuality is all about respecting choices, gender neutrality, consent, diversity, and equality – therefore the government needs to make Sexuality Education (CSE) mandatory in schools across India to create a more inclusive society.
Sexuality is also often taken lightly by people who are unaware about what it means or how deeply it impacts lives Sexuality has psychological, social, and cultural aspects which makes Sexuality Education more relevant Sexuality deals with our rights, respect, consent besides other vital topics such as contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual Education includes teaching young adults about their rights, gender neutrality, consent, diversity, and equality – therefore the government needs to make Sexuality Education (SE) mandatory in schools across India to create a more inclusive society. Sexual education helps break down inhibitions and stigmas attached with sex and allows young adults to explore their sexuality safely.
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