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Sex education in schools

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BY: Syed Mustafa Ahmad

One of the much debated topics across the world is the importance of sex education in schools. Sex education refers to a broad programme designed to impart knowledge/training regarding values, attitudes and practices affecting family relationships. Its main objective is the transfiguration of a male child into manhood and a female child into womanhood.

Sex is still considered a taboo in India. Parents feel embarrassed to talk about it openly with their children. Due to ignorance, children often fall victim to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, etc. So sex education is necessary to be introduced in the schools for the benefit of the youth of our country.

There is an ocean of distorted information available at the click of a button on the Internet. It hardly throws light on issue like gender equality, marital sexual relationships or even violence or abuse on sexual grounds. That is why schools should take up these classes starting from as early as class 6th, so that the students are comfortable approaching their teachers before turning to unreliable sources of information online. Moreover, the teachers keep a long lasting impact over the students. They can be very helpful in this process.

Sex education comprises sexual development, affection, body image and gender roles. In other words, it is about learning how we grow, reproduce and change over the years. It also includes a positive view of sex and the safety involved on sexuality. If the youngsters learn about sex objectively, they would be more careful before indulging in sex secretly. Sex is a natural part of life and when questions arise, they can be discussed in a matured way without condoning certain behavior.

The sole aim of such an education is to teach children to establish and accept the role and responsibility of their own gender by acquiring knowledge of sex. Understanding the differences and similarities between two genders; in terms of body and mind will set up a foundation for the future development in their acquaintance with friends and lovers and their interpersonal relationship. It will also help to develop emotionally stable children and adolescents who feel sufficiently secure and adequate to make decisions regarding their conduct without being carried away by their emotions.

A study on child abuse in India, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, reports that a good percentage of boys and girls surveyed have faced some or the other form of sexual abuse. Therefore, sex education may help the vulnerable young population to be aware about their sexual rights and empower them to protect themselves from any undesired act of violence, sexual abuse and molestation.

India’s National Population Policy also reiterates the need for educating adolescents about the risks of unprotected sex. It has been seen that various schools across different cities in India are organizing workshops to create awareness among students on issues like health and hygiene. Unfortunately, a complete sex education drive on a regular basis is still to be introduced in the Indian schools.

If we were to go by the data published by WHO, sex education should be imparted to children who are 12 years and above. It has also been seen that it is the age group of 12 to 19 years that counts for some 34 percent of the HIV infected persons in the world. Experts claim that “Youth in India needs sex education more than the youth in any other country since child marriage ensures that one not only have sex at a young age, but girls also have teenage pregnancies.”

In a world full of exploitation, children are the most vulnerable section of the society. They should be taught difference between the good touch and the bad touch in order to protect themselves from various forms of child abuse.

Basically, it seems that the taboo is in the head of the leaders, not teachers. This negative approach towards the concept of sex education starts from the authorities and through the trickledown effect reaches the students also, who then approach it in a similar way. In lieu of all the controversies, several states including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, etc., declared that the course content as suggested by the MHRD was unacceptable and thus banned the programme.

On the contrary, there is more to sex education than simply dumping facts on students, which is why many schools have hired counsellors, who deal with the topic more effectively than the teachers. And all this talk about vulgarity, it is because how the system is approaching the topic: it is all in the head.

If a regular teacher tries to talk about this topic with students, it can get awkward and uncomfortable, but it can never be vulgar. These sessions are always held by people who are trained to do it. Counsellors who can talk about these subjects without blinking an eyelid, are the ones who help in making the students confident too.

Parents in India are known to hide their love towards each other, in front of their children. The children grow up to believe that love is a taboo and it is improper to display one’s affection in public. Parents must understand the psyche of their children. They must share with their children the love they share and behave like normal friends.

Sex education is a part of the syllabus from class 7th onwards anyway, when the students learn about the reproductive system in their biology classes. There are so many other issues that kids of this age group face and need to be sensitized about. It once happened with me that in the coaching centre, when the diagram of the female reproductive system came in front of the eyes of the male students, they blushed. They couldn’t understand what they were being taught. This situation should change. It should be a smooth flow of things. Moreover, topics like dealing with rejections, getting too serious in relationships, friendships, etc., should be taught at the earliest.

Such guidance is much needed in the present times of information overload. In fact, parents feel that it is the schools that have to be proactive and arrange for classes and sessions like these, so that the day the child is curious, he or she gets answers from trained professionals and not from some anonymous website. The biggest advantage of sex education in India is that it will help the country fight against the tremendous spread of AIDS. Also, sexual exploitation is spreading at a high rate wherein the small kids are the more prone to such incidents.

Last but not the least, awareness of sex education is the most significant factor necessary to lead a secure life. Usual educational practices are very simple to learn but we cannot consider sex education on the same lines. It comprises physiological, psychological and social issues, especially when we think of including it as a part of academic syllabus. As these complications occur, a question may arise in the minds of people about the need for providing sex education to the children. While children reach teenage level, lack of sex education may lead the way to their unusual behavior. If not corrected in time, it may generate problems of immature misbehaviour in these children’s lives.

It is high time for introducing sex education in schools. This will create a liberal thinking among the youth and give them a safer, healthier lifestyle. Many psychologists argue that sex education has the potential to liberate the young generation from socially organized sexual oppression. It helps them to overcome feelings of guilt and shame and they start to see the world in a mature way. We can say that the proper sex education can ensure a safer, healthier lifestyle for the youth.

The governments both at the centre level and at the state level should create an atmosphere of liberalism, where there is no shallow mindset of approaching sex as something dirty and avoidable. All have to contribute in this regard. Many children have become scapegoats. We won’t like more to fall into this trap.

Religious institutions should also show interest in this matter. Trained scholars should be brought in to teach the adolescents, in a simple manner, what sex education is all about. Moreover, adolescents should be given a chance to talk to each other. It, in the long run, will prove very beneficial.

My experience is that there is a wide chasm between the male adolescents and the female adolescents. This gap has to be bridged. In short, our schools have to act like the whole society and not only as the business enterprises. We need humans, not donkeys.

(Author can be reached at [email protected])


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