Sex education does not mean wild kids indulging in depravity. It only means safer, healthier kids and reassured parents. Here’s why
When the Health Minister of a country makes bizarre statements like “sex-education in schools should be banned”, we know we’re in trouble. We live in a country where educated people of such stature think nothing of making irresponsible remarks like these (don’t forget, he also said, to prevent AIDS, fidelity in marriage was better than use of condoms)-and he is a doctor, mind you! Banning sex education to reduce STDs is a lot like banning driving in order to prevent an accident.
We may toot the cultural horn until kingdom come, but the reality is that no matter how virginal we want to pretend we are, a population of a billion plus people didn’t happen with a wave of a wand. While I respect the fact that all parents have an opinion (and rightly so) about when their child should be exposed to the concept of sex, I strongly believe that at some point, sex education is a must for all kids. For those (like our brilliant Dr Harsh Vardhan) who think that sex education will lead to morally corrupt kids, here’s a fact: research shows that kids who receive comprehensive sex education are 50% less likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who are told to abstain. I admit that this is a USA statistic, but are Indian urban kids all that different?
Here are some more reasons:
1. In India, sex is still a taboo subject in most households and parents, even when they want to, find it difficult to have a frank discussion with children. That’s where a school teacher can probably make their job a lot easier. The best place to impart knowledge is in school in a matter-of-fact manner, without exaggerations or undue shame attached to the subject. Sex education helps young people understand their bodies and gender roles in a positive way. It also helps them understand the course of their reproductive life such as puberty, menopause and ageing properly. In essence, this helps in boosting their self-esteem and understand the fact that the changes they are experiencing or will experience are normal and nothing to be afraid of.
2. We might not want to accept it, but it is undeniable that young people today are sexually active in some way or the other, and if they are not appropriately educated about sex, they are likely to take protection lightly. Any pediatrician will tell you that the average age of puberty as well as the age of losing virginity amongst kids and youngsters has dropped dramatically in the last decade. It is important that young people receive age-appropriate sexual health information and develop practical skills for keeping healthy. They should know that unprotected sex can lead to many sexually transmitted diseases.
3. Youngsters receive a lot of misinformation about sex through suggestive advertisements, music videos, movies, mobile phones, porn, reality TV, etc. Incorrect and harmful information is all over the place and very easily accessible. Would you prefer that your child believes unreliable information from quacks or for them to receive factual information in a safe, nonthreatening environment from professionals and experts? Proper sex education at school can dispel rumors, doubts and myths about sex and provide a realistic view of sexuality and reproduction.
4. AIDS and teenage pregnancies may not be talked about, but they are most certainly a reality. A child needs to be comfortable about their sexuality and body from a very young age-they should know what’s a good touch and what’s a bad touch, they should know about consent and they should definitely know about the use of protection. All this can be achieved only by making sex education a compulsory part of the school curriculum.
In conclusion, I can only say that as adults, it is our responsibility to remember that what we may consider as “protecting our kids from the harmful influence of the West” might, in reality, be their first steps towards misinformation. Remember the times when we thought that kissing could cause pregnancies?! I also think that the younger you make them learn, the easier it is for them to understand concepts like consent and consensual sex. Which, in turn leads to a generation that grows up respecting women and their bodies.
Also, remember, that it all starts at home. So unless the ridiculous ban really comes through, the next time your child brings a circular home asking whether you give the school permission to hold sex-ed classes, check on the box that says ‘Yes’.
(Note: This post of mine was originally published in Yowoto on 27th June 2014)