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GULU- Talk To Indian Boys About Puberty Changes & Sex In An Age Appropriate & Culturally Sensitive Way

Menstrupedia has recently come up with the first Indian comic on boy’s puberty- GULU- the essential guide to growing up with boys, after their widely known Menstrupedia comic for girls.

Menstrupedia has recently come up with the first Indian comic on boy’s pubertyGULU- the essential guide to growing up with boys, after their widely known Menstrupedia comic for girls.

SCENE 1: A middle school classroom in India, there is a chapter that describes the reproductive system. The biology teacher invariably skips it and asks the students to read it on their own or ask the parents. Most young boys do read that on their own later in private but can’t make any sense of it, many only hear crude jokes about it and most never take it to a parent because they already have some idea of ‘shame’ related to it. Also, all the periods-related workshops in school are ‘girls-only’ so they knos nothing.

SCENE 2: An average home and family anywhere in India, a pre-teen boy is curious about the covered black packets in which his older sister and mother ‘hide’ the sanitary napkins. He did read about ‘menstruation’ a bit in school but doesn’t know much. He also doesn’t know anything about the bodily changes happening to him and why he is beginning to feel a strong attraction to people.

“Puberty should not be taught in isolation, rather it should be delivered through an age and developmentally appropriate skills-based health education curriculum framework that starts as early as age five and continues into young adulthood.”  — UNESCO

GULU- a tool for meaningful change?

Menstrupedia, the well-known Indian menstruation-education and awareness initiative started by Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul in 2012, has recently come up with the first Indian comic on boy’s pubertyGULU- the essential guide to growing up with boys, after their widely known Menstrupedia comic for girls.

The website describes it as – “…the fun guide to puberty for boys, answers all the questions that your son might have about body changes, emotions, consent, and bullying. Topics like physical attraction, masturbation, addiction and periods that boys are too shy to discuss are also covered in an age-appropriate and culturally-sensitive manner.”

The key words remain ‘age-appropriate’ and ‘culturally-sensitive’. Most Indian parents still struggle with speaking to their adolescent boys about puberty. They know that their boys are getting all kinds of information from peer-group, internet and media but they dare not broach the conversation because they don’t know how!

Gulu can be an essential tool here to breach this gap. A comic book that delivers content which is also medically accurate and presented in an easy language and with detailed graphics of all crucial points.

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Why Indian society doesn’t talk to its boys

We live in a culture where parents might be aware in one way or the other that their teenage children are now beginning to form a sexual identity, orientation and relationships. They might be aware that they are masturbating or are sexually active. But they will never ever begin a conversation about bodies, safe sex, consent and the like. Especially the parent of the opposite gender would never know how to respond to the child- mothers often leave it to the fathers to speak to the boys and fathers mostly think let the mother talk to the girl. In most homes even that is completely missing.

One major reason is that they never had those conversations with their parents or teachers and have no point of reference. Girls might still be told about periods and personal hygiene in an academic, matter-of-fact, hush-hush way or about staying “safe” and away from boys, but boys are never talked to about anything sexual or reproductive.

Often adults also assume that talking to pre-teen or teen children about these issues might arouse their curiosity about sex and that it would rob them of their innocence, whereas activists and studies have time and again proven that informed teens make better and safer sexual choices, they are more vocal about abuse happening to them and others and they become changemakers in their own peer groups.

The importance of this book as a resource

While conducting their research for this book, team Menstrupedia states that they found that “the biggest challenge faced by educators as well as parents is embarrassment. They are too embarrassed to talk about this topic. And the second biggest challenge is a lack of proper resources.”

Even if there have been a handful of families and educators who want to sensitize boys about their own puberty and that of others, they had a dire paucity of the precise vocabulary and an authentic resource, in case the young boys have follow-up questions, what or how can the answers be found or framed.

Tuhin Paul, co-founder Menstrupedia says, “Educating just the girls wouldn’t be enough to reduce the existing gender gap in our society and making it conducive for girls. Boys too must be sensitized. Boys also need to be made aware about their own bodies and mind for them to grow up into sensitive and responsible individuals. We created Gulu to address this need.”

What can and must be done

  • Talking about puberty is not a one-time thing, it has to be an ongoing safe conversation with the youngster.
  • Use authentic and reliable resources, inform yourself first.
  • Use sensitive language and ensure the youngster feels safe and curious, not intimidated or ashamed.
  • Both boys and girls also should learn not only about the changes they go through but also should learn about those affecting others.
  • All pre-teen and teenagers must know about the gender spectrum and be sensitized particularly about their queer peers and those living with a disability in the context of puberty as well
  • Let them ask questions, address these queries, if you are not sure about any information, seek it first from a reliable source and then pass it on.
  • Use creative ways like sports, popular culture or films to initiate these conversations.
  • Ensure this conversation includes the emotional health of the child.

Adults must remember and reassure – Puberty or adolescence is not a ‘problem’ to be solved, but a human experience in which our young people deserve all the support from us. A few other resources with strictly Indian context can be found at Talking about Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI).

Image source: a still from the film Gippi

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About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...

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