Indian society needs sex education for teenagers that helps them take safe decisions in every sense, rather than preaching at them as moral police.
Let’s be honest here. Most families don’t have an open and frank discussion about sex. Sex is something that corrupts the minds of a parent’s little darlings and they will probably never be ready enough to accept that their wards have come of age. Schools aren’t very open about it either (with respect to sex education).
This lack of open dialogue isn’t surprising considering how the majority of the population thinks that talking about it would lead the young population down the ‘wrong path’- all this in a country where per year, approximately four million teenage girls give birth to a child. While this is largely due to the high rates of child marriage in the country, it does show the poor state of awareness among the population.
According to the India Today Sex Survey 2014, 3 out of 10 class ten students surveyed were not virgins. 24% of sexually active teens have had at least five encounters, 25% know a teen that has gotten pregnant (which goes up to 47% in the metros), and 41% do not want to use any contraceptives. To underline the above stated fact, 91% do not talk to their parents about sex.
Where does this youthful population turn to when there is no reliable source of information and guidance available? Why, the Internet and friends, of course. The Internet has opened up new avenues and information has never been as readily available as before, even in the form of porn.
I talked to a bunch of teenagers and from what I gathered, they are very well aware of sex and what it entails. Unsurprisingly, they cringed when I asked whether they knew all this through discussion with their families. It all starts with the biology textbooks for some – the chapter on the reproductive system. Since everybody is giggling and teachers often try to brush it off, they become more curious on the subject. For others, friends are the main source of information. But for the nitty-gritty that they do not understand, the Internet is always there to help them out.
However, the young people I spoke to have moral dilemmas as well. They try and comprehend topics like masturbation and pre-marital sex in terms of right and wrong rather than in terms of comfort, safety or consent. From childhood itself, people are brought up in an environment that looks at even close friendship with the opposite sex with suspicion (though of course, the picture is changing today).
When open discussion is taboo, it leads them to wonder whether there is something wrong in having sex or masturbating. There is a clash of ideas here where their own peer group and siblings talk about it; they see their classmates exploring and it seems okay but the societal conservatism creates confusion. Teenagers as young as sixteen are losing their virginity and while some of them are okay with casual sex and dating, others wonder whether they should wait for ‘the one’. They are aware of how manipulative people in relationships can be and thus, are not always trusting enough to embark upon this step.
I believe that while many young people might feel adventurous enough to venture into this area, they are not prepared for the emotional baggage that often comes along with it. They understand that consent means everything (in theory) but perhaps not in practice. They are worried about not being able to deal with the repercussions of regretting the decision in the future. They are taking more risks without being convinced themselves. In some cases, there is a lot of peer pressure to accept sexual activity as commonplace even when they are not ready to.
To fill in these gaps, sex education for teenagers is a must but it won’t be enough. There needs to be this wholesome approach with the emotional aspects also being taken into consideration. It is a must, as the figures show. We need to get rid of our notions of sex being taboo and treat it for what it is.
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