When spoken about Sex, we choose to discuss it in hush scandalized tones. There are so many questions left unanswered in the minds of the young people of this country when it comes to sex education. There’s been a constant battle regarding the initiation of Sex education, whether it should be taught at home or at school. Personally, I believe in team effort, so with the support and guidance from home and the knowledge incurred from school can work miracles on the psychosexual development of a child.
Well, the first question that arises is what does Sex Education entail? Many people tend to take the idea of sex education at face-value, but sex education does not encourage and teach one how to have sex, rather it teaches about one’s sexual identity, gender sensitivity, contraception, consent, awareness against abuse and a healthy reproductive life. On the contrary to all of this, we were taught about Reproduction in Class 9th as simply a process which is essential to procreate.
Let us first shed light on the failure of the implementation of Sex Education in India and its result on the young adults in the country. In 2014, India’s then Health Minister, banned Sex Education and told schools to focus on yoga instead saying that yoga encourages abstinence and sex education is crude and vulgar. As a result of all this, the right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sandhu and Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti led an attack that included “threats of physical violence” against the teachers that dared to carry out the 2007 health education program after which Sex Education was banned in several states.
Considering the state of affairs in several states in the country, it can be presumed that the concept of unplanned pregnancies, importance of protection and STDs are all provided by the internet in bits and pieces by sources that cannot be trusted which has led to a perspicuous hysteria in college going students.
So now, we’ll emphasize upon the repercussions of such an education policy.
1. Unplanned Pregnancies
Out of an estimated 11.8 million teenage pregnancies in India, some major contributing factors have been poor access to contraceptives, issues with termination of pregnancy and absence of awareness related to sex education.
Abortion in India has been legalized for specified reasons for the last 50 years with the induction of Medical Termination of Pregnancy act in 1971.
Instead of talking about the act in full detail, I’ll be focusing on the recent amendments in the MTP act.
The four major amendments are:
- The MTP act 1971 only applied to married couples, which meant that only married women could legally get an abortion but the same was struck out of the MTP act 2021 and the reason for such a termination could be failure of contraceptive method or device.
- There has been an increase in the upper gestation limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for special categories of women including rape survivors, victims of incest and other vulnerable women or fetal abnormalities.
- The opinion of one registered medical practitioner for the termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation instead of 12; the opinion of two RPMs for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks instead of up to 20 weeks; and the opinion of a state level medical board is essential for a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities.
- A fine of Rupees 1000 or a year of imprisonment incase of break of confidentiality. The name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed, except to a person authorized in any law that is currently in force.
In Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (retd.) vs. the Union of India and other (2017), the court recognized the constitutional right to women to make reproductive choices, as a part of personal liberty under article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
For the longest time young adults in colleges would have to turn to unregistered doctors and doctors without actual licenses to terminate a pregnancy resulting from the failure of contraceptive, which if not fatal then was extremely harmful to the mental and physical health of these girls. Plan B Emergency contraceptives, are popped without any medical consultation resulting in side effects such as, abdominal pains and cramps, bleeding, nausea and fatigue for the next couple of days and excess of these pills can result in more serious consequences on the body such as permanent infertility or cysts or major hormonal imbalance.
2. Sexual abuse: “good touch” and “Bad touch” are things most of us have been taught at a younger age. But for college students, these issues come with their own set of perpetrators.
- Learn to say NO: no matter how uncomfortable the situation might get, don’t be afraid to say no.
- Keep your close friends aware about your whereabouts and about the person you’re with and formulate a contingency plan to get out of an uneasy situation.
- Create boundaries: understand your limitations and know when to press pause on a situation.
- Do not let anyone coerce you into sending them photos or videos of yourself, or blackmail you for the same. Immediately file an FIR at your nearest police station, it’s a punishable crime and your identity will be kept anonymous.
- Do not let a stranger serve you a drink, either in a glass or even a sealed can.
3. Gender identity: Sex is label that is assigned at birth by the doctor based on the reproductive parts one is born with and the chromosomes present and is then put on your birth certificate.
But Gender is a little more complicated than that. It’s a social and legal status and depends on one’s characteristics, behavior and thoughts. One’s gender may not necessarily be what their sex is. Gender Identity is how you feel on the inside and how you express it. Feelings about gender identity may begin as early as age two or three.
Colleges and homes in India, have to give these youngsters a chance to explore and discover themselves, and be open enough to let them grow and understand the whys and hows of their situation in a a heteronormative society.
4. STDs: In a study performed by Surendran Uma Maheshwri and S. Kalaivani, the medical records of 1140 adolescents and young adults were reviewed. The mean age of coital debut was 21.1 years in males and 18.6 in females. About 17.6% of them were practicing risky sexual behaviour. Prevalence of STIs was 8.7% and complete knowledge about condom usage was found to be very low at 8%.
There are many ways to avoid contracting an STI:
- Always avoid sex with anyone who has genital sores, a rash, discharge, or other symptoms. It’s preferable to communicate and get tested.
- Use Latex Condoms and make sure the lubricant is water based, if used.
- Get Bi-yearly HIV tests, and hepatitis B vaccinations.
STDs are largely preventable by practicing safe sex, both correctly and consistently.
I know at this point it must feel like I’ve only listed the horrors of Sexual intercourse, but sex education is supposed to make you feel comfortable with your own body. To be able to create your own boundaries and to discover the wonders of the human body. This sort of education is supposed to help you express yourself mentally, emotionally and sexually. There are bloggers such as Leeza Mangaldas and Seema Anand who truly show the beauty in unearthing the pleasures and satisfaction of a healthy Sex life.
There’s a big taboo around pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure. People worry that teaching children how to seek pleasure in their relationships will encourage them to have unprotected sex before they’re ready, but to be aware of all of this has proven to help students take a safe decision for themselves.
It has to be understood that sex is pleasure-based, and when students are taught so, they learn to build more healthy and meaningful relationships with themselves and their partners. A person’s sexuality is an integral part of who they are, so a sex positive education is free of shame, guilt and secrecy. These students not only deserve thorough psychological but also anatomical lessons in order to understand themselves better.
Ultimately, Sex education is about being non-judgemental, openly communicating and reducing embarrassment around sexuality and its many forms.
The Family Planning Association of India conducted a workshop on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All” in July of 2019. The organization hopes to break down taboos around sex, reproduction and homosexuality. India’s Health Ministry is also working to improve awareness about sex and sexuality. In 2017, it stated homosexual feelings are natural. This is a progressive stance for a country with previous laws against homosexual intercourse.
After years of sex education being banned in many Indian states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out a sex education program in 2018. This training is vital since India is number three in the world’s HIV epidemic. This education involves role-playing and activity-based modules that are taught by trained teachers and student peer educators. In this training, students learn about sexual violence and sexual health among other topics. The whole training in total is 22 hours. Each week the schools set aside one period for the training.
This biggest barrier toward sex education in India will probably be cultural norms against talking about sex. These norms are heavily ingrained in Indian society. However, India is making small but important steps to provide more comprehensive sex education and I hope we as students play a vital role in changing the scenario.
- Ministry of health and family welfare http://Pib.gov.in/pressreleasepage.aspx?PRID=1705381
- Centre for disease control and prevention http://CDC.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm
This post has been written by Mehek Sandhu, IIIrd year