It’s 2020 but in India imparting sex education and open discussions continue to be taboo. Not only this makes the teen population engage in risky sexual activities but not addressing their questions makes them navigate information from unreliable and dangerous sources which destroys their mental, social, and physical health. In India giving sex education is considered as imparting teens with the knowledge of how to have sex. This is mere foolishness on the part of the Indian society as they try to impose their religious, socio-cultural beliefs on their child which have no medical evidence to support their actions. In a country where a woman is raped every 16 minutes, 53.22% teen population is sexually harassed and abused, menstruation is still a taboo to discuss, one out of ten men in India being impotent and being the third largest country bearing people with HIV/AIDS for how long can India abstain from recognizing sex education as an important part of Right to Education which is a fundamental right under Section 21-A of the Indian Constitution?
WHAT EXACTLY IS SEX EDUCATION AND WHAT IS ITS RELEVANCE IN TODAY’S CHANGING WORLD
Let us address the elephant in the room most of us even me have been brought into this environment where discussions about sex and sexuality in a knowledgeable environment with our parents, teachers, and friends are nonexistent, we are made to think that it is a private act and is a hushed topic. Despite popular opinions, Sex Education as defined by the World Health Organization is a broad program that aims to build a strong foundation for lifelong sexual health by acquiring information and attitudes, beliefs, and values about one’s relationship and intimacy. It provides knowledge and imparts skills to get acquainted with sexual health, consent, contraceptive, safe sexual acts, puberty, gender identity, sexual abuse. We are living in a world which is not at all same in which our parents and grandfathers used to live, in this era of globalization information on the Internet travel at the speed of light. Sex Education prepares an individual to face both mental and physical developments at the onset of puberty and not find themselves alone and scared about this natural process. In a country where children as young as three-four years old are sexually abused and unable to differentiate between good and bad touch, clearly there is a need to provide them accurate information and make them comfortable while talking about it.
Indian parents mostly rely on ignorance; they don’t address their child’s questions about their sexual development. What do you expect from a girl who has no information about menstruation starts panicking while seeing blood in her underwear one day in the middle of a road or school or public environment, obviously helplessness, fear as it’s a disease, and shame on her part for something she has no control on. And instead of receiving the help she is mocked and stared at by men who haven’t received sex education. Sex Education apart from these benefits makes the other gender-sensitive about other gender’s body autonomy and attitudes. Relationships are dramatic, our experiences do vary everyone’s sexuality is different but we must respect the other person’s identity and support them.
In India even though a girl receives some sex education from her mother, a boy is left at the receiving end from his father thus having no source which can answer him about his bodily changes and his first nocturnal emission, thus he resorts to pornography, the internet and magazines. This gave rise to sexual abuse, unhealthy relationships, unrealistic body image, and normalization of objectification, unsafe sexual practices, and violence. By abstaining them from indulging in sexual acts and addressing their urges makes the aggression and need even worse because of which rape, unintended pregnancies, and STD/ HIV pave in the youth.
A LOOK AT THE VARIOUS DEVELOPMENTS IN RECOGNIZING SEX EDUCATION AS A PART OF THE EDUCATION CURRICULUM
The Adolescent Education Programme (AEP) was initiated as early as 1993 by The Government of India, recognizing the need for sex education and was repeated in the National Curriculum Framework in 2005 but there was no consensus among states to make it compulsory. Several of us hate studying Maths while in school, But we were still taught about it and we studied, why the same cannot happen with Sex Education, it is also necessary to educate them about this subject as sooner or later they will make decisions, develop their beliefs and attitudes towards it and indulge in sexual acts. It is also necessary for their overall physical, mental, and socio-cultural development. The Importance of Integrating Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as Human Rights were highlighted during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, making it a responsibility of all UN nations to ensure implementation of the same.
Even though some states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, and Rajasthan objected to its implementation states like Maharashtra which proposed to implement sex education are never able to do so because of lack of Infrastructure, Who will teach the students? The teachers at the ground level are not well equipped and trained to teach them in a formal and professional language and environment. They find it awkward and hesitate to discuss it. There were also protests from the ground level from these conservative politicians, teachers, and parents as according to them imparting sex education in schools is paving for more increased sales of condoms from MNC’S. The Supreme Court on 16 November 2005 said that sex education cannot be bought under the ambit of Right to Education. The Former Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was against sex education in India. His conservative view about the safest sex was with faithfulness to other partners caused uproar in the society which severally criticized his views. Not only that, The right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiksha Bachao Samiti go even to the extent of threatening the teachers who will impart sex education in schools with physical violence.
In 2018 Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out a sex education program in 2018 which aims to teach teenagers about sexual violence and sexual health. The whole training in total was of 22 hours. But still, even it’s not sufficient for their overall development as a lot more is included in sex education. The National Education Policy also failed to include sex education as a part of the National Curriculum. Considering these developments India has still a very far distance to cover to make discussions on sex and sexuality, normal and natural
A QUICK GLANCE AT SOME PROGRESSIVE STEPS TAKEN BY COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD
- Telangana has become the first Indian State to make gender sensitization a mandatory course at the undergraduate level. Though in a limited way but it’s a welcome step to make new advances and thrive for better in the future as it will pay away for discussion on sex education in a professional environment.
- Countries like The Netherlands have achieved a milestone for a successful sex education curriculum where children as young as 4 are taught about sex and sexuality through age-appropriate content. As a result of Netherlands, is one of the most gender-neutral countries with lowest the teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Scotland is set to become the world’s first country to include LGBTQ + history in school curriculum to make them more aware and acceptable towards other person’s identities from 2021.
The various studies conducted by Governments, Independent research institutions, and NGOs have time and again concluded by presenting evidence that sex education is the need of the hour in present India. It’s time we make ourselves open-minded and normally discuss subjects like sex and sexuality in a civilized and formal manner with no hesitancy and awkwardness. Sex Education needs to be given in an age-appropriate manner. Though LGBTQ rights are recognized and offenses against homosexuality are struck down under section 377 of IPC still they continue to face discrimination and sexual assault. It’s high time we recognize its importance and make sex education a part of the right to education as receiving it is both a human and moral right and not waste more time.
Author(s) Name: Himanshi Garg (UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh)
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