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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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21. Capricorn. Curious. Love to learn. Love to write. Figuring out life.
I agree with you completely Khushboo. I have spoken to teachers who shy away from dealing with this topic because they aren’t sure how to go about it. Even Biology teachers rush through the topics on reproduction with no room for children to ask questions because they feel embarrassed. So what you say is very right. We are a nation of “avoiders” and “escapists” when it comes to sharing information on sex and sexual orientation, sexual health and pleasure- hoping that if we bury our heads in the sand the “storm” will pass!!! I do think the “How” of sex education is probably the stumbling block. Schools must be given the responsibility to frame a structured series of “lesson” plans to make it simple and systematic for the teacher to deliver at various stages of a child’s growth. It is far better to learn about sex from a valid authentic source than internet porn which is misguided and dangerous or teen peers who are as much in the dark as themselves!! As parents too we must educate ourselves and approach the subject of sex , consent, contraception, abuse etc with our kids and guide and direct them on these matters as much as we would to help them figure out a career path or identifying their talents and skills. It is ridiculous that we fool ourselves that things will not happen if we do not talk about them. On the contrary far more terrible and dangerous outcomes are likely if we do not address the issue of sex education to teenagers and young adults.
Totally agree. Any discussion on sex becomes taboo because of our own attitude of treating it as something dirty or forbidden which creates an unhealthy mindset about sex. Even as toddlers and small children there is curiosity about private parts and the body which is again treated as something ‘dirty’. It’s like a child constantly asking ‘What is this?’ and since we refuse to give a mature answer, the child’s natural curiosity is not satisfied. Then the child takes it on himself/herself to find the answer. My 4 year old once asked me where a baby comes from and I told him that he was in my stomach for 9 months and then the doctor got him out. Since then he has never asked me the same question, because even a child as young as 4 knows when he is being told the truth and his curiosity was completely satisfied. Having said that, we also need to judge as to how much of the truth needs to be shared with the child depending on his age, but we must share only the truth….
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