Imagine living in a country with a population of 1.2 billion people, where sex education, even in today’s context – with advent of technology and people becoming more open to social causes – is considered a taboo. Traditionally, adolescents in many cultures and societies were not given any information on ‘sex education’, but to everyone’s bizarre surprise even after years of educational reforms, the country hasn’t witnessed any significant alterations in the mindset of a large chunk of population.
People live in same old connotation that it is ok to have sex, but talking about it with children is still considered a strict ‘no-go’. Although, families have become more open to talking about menstruation but reproduction or any other sex related topic is still off-limits in many homes. The major misconception amongst people is the assumption that, sex education relates only to teach children about reproduction, menstruation, or awareness of body parts of the opposite sex. In reality the domain of sex education is vast and includes issues like – awareness about safe sex, use of contraceptives, respecting your opposite sex, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.
Sex Education & Society (Stats)
The responsibility of educating our children lies with schools and consequently the state/union government by enacting better schemes and policies. The recent WHO report states that for the better understanding of the concepts, sex education should be imparted to children between the age group 12-19. Over the years, sex education has become one of the most talked about issues, which has further polarized the whole world into namely two groups; one pushing for implementation of the schemes in schools and the other signing petitions to stop it.
The recent surge in the cases of rapes and molestation have been attributed to a lot of factors like illiteracy and poverty, but the root cause of the problem is the apathy that still majority of families prefer to ignore the importance of sex education. The recent UNICEF report states that 47% of girls in India are married before the age of 18 and 28.5% report first child birth before 20[i]. Children married at such young age will eventually lead to greater imbalance in families and the circle of ignorance will go on, until drastic steps are taken to improve the current situation. The increase in number of cases of STDs like AIDS can be attributed to lack of proper guidance at a young age. A WHO report reveals a shocking fact that – India had the 3rd highest number of AIDS affected patients (2.1 million by the end of 2013), only behind South Africa and Nigeria. 31% of these cases are reported among people belonging to the age group of 15 to 29[ii].
The appalling question is – If schools in India can organize various workshops to create awareness about issues like health and hygiene, than why not on sex education? Sex education in India gained some momentum in 1980s when the government enacted the National Population Education project – a programme highlighting the fact that increase in population leads to poverty. Since then, no major changes have been enacted in the education policy, on the contrary various political parties have signed petitions to remove the topic from the courses.
Educating the youth is the only way by which a complete eradication of this problem can be achieved. Making the topic more accessible for our children can make them to become truly empowered and understand the intricacies of the subject. Silence will only lead to children seeking information from misinformed sources; in most cases, teenagers end up seeking information from pornography, which can be more catastrophic than the actual problem. Instead of enacting sex education as a typical education policy in the school, it should cover key areas like psychology and social concerns. A competent sex education policy at school along with suitable communication between the parents and the children at home can bring a positive change.