Sex Education in Schools
A recent Reuters report brings up the question of sex-education in India’s schools. Does educating school going little kids about the carnal knowledge, help them prepare for safer sex practices, or does it make them go and try those newly-learned skills out before they are physically and psychologically ready? It’s not an easy question to answer, and certainly an explosive political issue, considering the perpetual morality debate we seem to be having in our country. With 86% of this country’s new HIV infections being contributed by unsafe sex practices, some more education on that front would certainly curb some of those HIV infections. On the other hand, there is a school of thought arguing that introducing the subject at the school level would somehow lead to Indian youngsters having sex at every possible corner.
Not that Indians need to know the basics of sex. Most fifth-graders probably already know what the government is trying to ban the teachers from teaching them. Television and Bollywood provide enough libidinous titillation to evoke curious questions about every possible aspect of carnal wisdom. So why the hullabaloo? If the government really wants the school going kids to learn about sex but not to practice it, there is one real way to achieve this. Put all the sex-education in our mundane textbooks and then have the little children take long and hard essay-type exams on that topic, month after month, year after year. Make it a mandatory subject. Make those textbooks as boring as Geography or Science textbooks. Just suck all the fun out of it. Before long, India’s schoolchildren will take such an aversion to sex that it will not only curtail HIV, it will also help limit the population as well!
The youth needs comprehensive sex education so that they are empowered to make informed decisions relating to their bodies without fear, shame or guilt. Given the right information and skills, young people can negotiate high-risk situations more effectively and reduce their vulnerability to violence, HIV and substance abuse. It often happens that the youth are ignored during any dialogue on sex education. Arguments based on culture or morality does not justify denying young people the information and skills they need and are entitled to.
Comprehensive sex education may not corrupt young minds, but that the lack of information may lead young people to access false, incomplete and harmful information. When girls get married at a young age, have sex within marriage and produce children, why are they denied the right information on the subject? There should be scope for negotiation to bridge the gap between the generations over this matter, as many who oppose fail to look at the broader perspective of the issue. It is neither an issue of culture nor morality but a critical matter that affects the health of millions of young people who would indulge in sex anyway with or without formal education and information. In Bali, sex education is integrated with other subjects such as biology and is not taught as a separate subject. But six Indian States have banned sex education. Alarmingly, three of them – Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat — are amongst the states that have the highest number of reported AIDS cases in India.
Politicians are going hoarse lambasting sex education for ‘promoting obscenity’ and ‘maligning’ Indian culture. Who are they trying to please? Students, parents and educationists are furious and actively lobbying to make sex education a part of the school curriculum. Are their concerns genuine? Will the politicians end up with blood on their hands if they deny students the right to know about the birds and the bees and its various fallouts? It is extremely important especially for a girl child, and with the AIDS scare, the issue takes even more importance than ever. Sex education is certainly not against our culture; rather it’s about the social setting. What was relevant thirty years back is redundant today. Similarly, sex education in schools is vital in today’s world.
Self-proclaimed moral police say that sex education will lead to students having sex; therefore, sex education should not be included in the school curriculum. How much water does this argument hold? If students are made aware of the dangers of unprotected sex and that no contraceptive is 100 per cent safe, they will behave more responsibly. It’s stupid to assume that sex education will lead to students having sex, because in the course of events that follow in life it is inevitable, and sex education can only help in young minds to think with practicality and maturity. If we have to fight the menace of AIDS and ensure a safe and bright India, sex education as a part of school curriculum will only help the cause.