Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sex Education in India

Elizabeth Taylor once said, “It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.” That pretty much summarizes the need for sex education. Most opponents of sex education vociferously argue that children and the entire community at large do not need sex education as our ancestors did not have it. Most people, who challenge the need for sex education, miss the point that HIV /AIDS did not exist at that point of time. Earlier, HIV/AIDS was known as GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency, as it was mistakenly believed that this condition exits only amongst homosexuals. It was only in the year 1981 that the first case of HIV/AIDS was confirmed in the USA and not until 1986 was it found for the first time in India. So from the year 1986 to 2008, it has been just 22 years that this disease has been known to exist in India. It is not really astonishing that it is incurable as of yet. Consider this. Every century has been witness to a certain killer disease that has claimed millions of lives before the human race eventually found a remedy for it. The 19th century had no other option other than to be a silent onlooker to the recurrent Bubonic plague epidemics or the Black Death that had wiped out more than 1/3rd of Europe’s population. Tuberculosis has beleaguered mankind for centuries. The history of Influenza testifies that it is more deadly than the 1st World War. The 21st century will have to fight against HIV/AIDS. What distinguishes HIV/AIDS from the above diseases is that it is not contagious and its modes of transmission can be avoided. The greater the numbers of people who are educated about and report the disease, the better the chance researchers stand of curing it sooner.

An additional issue that has to be seriously dealt with during sex education is abortion. “The USA legalized abortion in the year 1973. The period from 1973 to 2004 has seen nothing less than 37 million abortions. The genocide in Hitler’s concentration camps exterminated 6 million Jews. Therefore, one might argue that the number of fetuses aborted in the USA is greater the 6 times the number of Jews killed during the 2nd World War hence amounting to state sponsored genocide.” – Freakonomics .Actually, it has helped keep America’s population from exploding. In India, more than 5 million female fetuses are illegally aborted every year, amounting to virtually 50 million girls not being permitted to take birth in the past decade itself. That is so much more horrible as compared to the USA. Sex education can be effectively employed to raise awareness regarding the use of abortions and to sensitize people to the importance of balanced sex ratio in nature so as to prevent its abuse. It can also be utilized to highlight the relation between skewed sex ratios and human trafficking.

Sex education should ideally be started at the primary level than during high school. When we talk about sex education during the primary school years, it doesn’t imply that we need to educate our 6-7 year olds regarding childbirth, pregnancy, contraception and HIV/AIDS. What it does mean is that we have to make our children aware of the fact their bodies are sacred, that they have a right to privacy and that no one can violate them. So in case of the tragedy that a child does fall victim to a paedophile, he/she knows that it should be reported to a trusted family member so that the criminal is brought to the book, the crime is further prevented and that the child receives appropriate medical treatment for any physical or psychological damage that may have been caused.

Sensitization of the sexes to each others need is an issue that can and must be addressed during the course of sex education. Such a topic is ideal for people over the age of 15 when they are better equipped to understand sexual relations and intimacy. Of course only psychiatrists, teachers, child psychologists and other experts are capable of determining whether it should be taken up earlier. Men and women need to be made aware of the fact that even within a marriage or an intimate relationship, consent to sex is relevant and necessary and that consent cannot be taken for granted. Both genders need to understand that marital rape does happen and that it should be punished. At the same time, we need to realize that even a man can be harassed and tormented in a relationship, may be not sexually but in other ways. Their problem should be appropriately redressed.

The legal facet of sexual relations and sexual issues should be identified and adequately dealt with. Sex education should comprise of legislation apropos to concerns such as human trafficking, prostitution, child marriage, dowry, child abuse and drug abuse. The path breaking Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill, 2001 must also be inculcated in the education curricula. This shall help make people aware of their legal rights, impress upon their minds the legal implications of sexual violence and hopefully start a fruitful tradition of public discussions and participation in legislation and their better implementation.

When Bill Gates donated $100 million for HIV/AIDS prevention in India, many commented that 100 million was disproportionately large given the nature and the extent of the problem in India. We have the highest number of People Living with HIV/AIDS. It is worth keeping in mind that the only country in Asia that has successfully tackled the problem of HIV/AIDS is Thailand. It has demonstrated that the number of new cases can be slowed or even halted with an intensive education program reaching out to the whole community. Thailand, a country the size of Maharashtra, was spending $100 million per annum on its

As a nation facing severe problems with regards to child marriage, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, gender discrimination and skewed sex ratios, it is high time we tackle these issues head on and solve minimize them to the maximum possible degree. We must stop being foolish and say that “Indian culture” does not permit sex education. The above mentioned problems harm India, sex education will save India. It is only by sex education and not by moralistic sermons that we can preserve and allow Indian culture to flourish, for Prevention is better than cure.


Volksgrenadier said...

sex education will save india?!!

u wish!!

Natalia said...

Mr. Volksgrenadier, A little trying never hurt anyone. Saving India from sex related problems and diseases, not really the issue. But reducing the problem, definitely!

Volksgrenadier said...

a good try w/o any results isnt worth anything.
-Dr. Gregory house

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An infectiously enthusiastic incorrigible optimist, insanely in love with and morbidly curious about life, death and everything in between.