Sex! The taboo word we dare not speak in public. Sex and related words like penis and vagina are words we can talk about only in hushed voices while using various twisted analogies without saying the actual word. Unfortunately, this veiled method of speaking about sex, something that is completely natural, has percolated into our education system and has led to the spread of numerous misconceptions. The existence of these misconceptions only brings out just how crucial it is to improve sex education in schools.
What is sex education?
Sex education involves teaching the youth about their bodies and its development, sex, sexuality, relationships, and equipping the youth with the skills necessary to communicate about and make informed decisions relating to sex and their sexual health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), informing people about it requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as spreading awareness about having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.
What is the current condition of sex education in Indian school?
Although the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had mapped out a programme for sex education called Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education (ARSH) project in 2005, the situation of sex education in India is still quite bleak. Regardless of the guidelines provided by various boards, institutes ignored it. A lot of educational institutes believe that teaching student about sex will lead to an increase in sexual activity. Some even think that sex education is unnecessary as it is a western concept that will pollute our Indian values. The schools that do educate about sex do so in a very rudimentary manner, laying emphasis only on the biological aspects of sex, and ignoring other related topics.
Why is it essential to have sex education in schools?
It is vital for the schools to give more importance to sex education. India’s indifferent attitude to sex education has caused severe damage to our population. According to a Union government report, 53 percent of Indian children are victims of some form of sexual abuse. Teaching the abusers that all sexual activities must be between consenting adults, could have avoided it. Abuse is something that has become a daily happening. Increasing awareness about the necessity of consent, and obliterating our faulty gender expectations can prevent it. A WHO report states that there are currently 2.1 million people living with HIV in India. Such a large number of people living with this condition is unprecedented. Having better education on precaution and protection could make this number smaller. Therefore, people need to be educated about the various methods of protection that they can take, and not follow misconceptions when it comes to this matter. Improper protection practices can lead to STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
What do we gain?
Increasing awareness of the various forms of contraception available can curb overpopulation. In a way, sex education can be considered as a form of contraception itself. Sex education helps adolescents understand the changes that are happening to their bodies. It educates about menstruation, another taboo topic and helps spread awareness on the hygienic ways to deal with periods. Sex education also helps people understand the concepts of sex, gender, and sexuality. Contrary to common belief, sexuality is a spectrum, and not everyone fits into the image of heterosexuality. The very existence of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that classifies homosexuality as an unnatural sex act is a testament to our ignorance and the poor condition of sex education in our country.
Our country may have progressed dramatically in terms of technology and economy, but our efforts will be in vain unless there is a change in our attitude towards sex education. Sex is something that does not need to be shrouded in mystery. Sex education in schools can achieve the goal of doing away with nonsensical misconceptions. Furthermore, it can promote healthy and hygienic sexual practices.