Every day, 13 women in India die due to abortion-related conditions. The country ranks third in terms of the highest number of HIV patients. About 1.6 billion girls under the age of 19 become pregnant every year. However, in a country that is so influenced by Western culture, sex and sex education is still considered taboo.
Sex education, as the name suggests. is a comprehensive sexuality education where young adults learn about responsible sexual behavior, consent, respect for all genders, body image, etc. While educating young adults can bring a significant change in the numbers mentioned above, let us look at some facts about sex education in India, which has made this a very difficult task.
#1 It is not called sex education in India
Even though the term sex education is used to talk about educating students about sex and safe sexual behaviors, it is perceived as something that teaches students to have sex.
Sexuality education, instead, better justifies the subject by indicating that it teaches students about sexuality and not sex. In India, the term “sex” is a word that goes through a lot of censorship, and there was also a time when using the term in public would have serious repercussions. Instead of calling it sex education, there are several terms like health and wellness curriculum, comprehensive sexuality education, adolescent education, etc. that get used.
#2 During sex-ed sessions, boys and girls are made to sit in different classrooms
While it is understood that when young kids are introduced to sex-ed for the first time, it might be a bit uncomfortable for them. Learning about the anatomy of the opposite gender while sitting together might make them feel uncomfortable. If only this were the real reason for making girls and boys take these sessions separately.
In India, it is a common idea that having girls and boys sit together during sex-ed sessions will provoke the children to experiment. Even though the aim of these sex-ed sessions is to help students understand that these bodily changes are normal, teachers and parents do not want their sons or daughters to see eye-to-eye during these sessions. Not only this, in many schools, girls and boys might not be allowed to sit on the same bench in classrooms even on a regular day.
#3 Sex education is considered as “a green signal to experiment”
In an informal survey conducted amongst students who had been a part of sex-ed sessions, students reported that these sessions helped them make informed decisions. It helped them refrain from unprotected sexual activity or sexual activity at all, understand the difference between good touch and bad touch, etc.
However, when it comes to the debate about whether sex education should be included in the curriculum, it is argued that imparting information about sex is a green signal for students to experiment. Apparently, the information would make the students curious and they would be exposed to adult information. The fact that sex-ed might sensitize young men to be respectful of women, menstrual cycles, or understand consent all becomes secondary.
#4 Sex education has been banned in several states in India since it was launched
When the concept of including sex education was introduced in India in 2007, including it in the curriculum was met with a lot of opposition. Ministers, parents, and many different groups of people raised concerns and even threatened teachers with violence. About 13 states, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh banned sex education in their respective states.
However, in 2018, when the Modi government came into action, sex education was made compulsory for the country’s school curriculum. However, instead of calling it sex ed, it was called “school health program,” and it included everything right from education about puberty, menstruation, good touch, and bad touch, safe sexual behaviors, nutrition to mental health.
#5 No uniformity in the information given and no way to track
In some schools, doctors teach sex-ed, in some counselors play the role and in others, teachers or people from NGOs conduct these sessions. While in some schools, the sessions happen twice a week in others, there are just two sessions in a student’s entire school life where he or she learns about sex education. There is no uniformity in what is taught, not everyone has the credibility, and there is no way to track if students have been provided with sufficient information for safe sexual encounters.
#6 Sex education is a highly controversial topic in India
Sex-ed is considered offensive to the Indian culture and its values. In a country that reports high numbers of child marriages, teenage pregnancies, sexual abuse, fatal abortions, HIV cases, etc. educating their youth about responsible sexual behavior is seen as something that leads to sexual activity and promiscuity amongst young adults.
#7 NGOs are trying to bridge the gap in sex education
Since people are beginning to realize the importance of educating young children about consent, safe sex, outcomes of different steps, those who are aware are have been struggling to bring about some change. When certain schools refused to include sex education in their curriculum or were not equipped enough, NGOs like the SOL foundation stepped in. NGOs like these aim to create a safer environment for children and women by educating them. These NGOs are believed to have a much better outcome than the schools.
#8 Sex and sex education is considered an adult topic
In India, sex is considered to be an adult topic, and young children are kept as far as possible from anything that would teach them about sex. Considering this logic, sex education is seen as something that “spoils” the innocence of these young children by teaching them how to have sex.
#9 There is a notion that sex education is only for women
Since only women get periods and get pregnant, it is assumed that sex education is only for women and girls. The fact that sex education teaches young boys about the changes in their bodies, the changes that women go through, consent, respect for all genders, caring for women all gets overlooked by this notion.
#10 Sex education is seen as a way for MNCs to sell condoms and contraceptives
In many places in India, sex education is even seen as an attempt by MNCs to sell condoms and contraceptives. In a country where thousands of women die every year due to abortions, teenage pregnancies, or other abortion-related issues, the phrase, prevention is better than cure gets ignored very easily.