In India, the widely deprecated topic of sex is ironically an essential piece of knowledge one must carry with while entering adulthood. While we often complain about the repercussions of inadequate education about sex provided to our youth, the social taboos surrounding it withhold education systems in India from discussing it openly. Even parents are hesitant to talk to their sons and daughters about it. Well, here is why sex education is so important.
Lack of proper sex education leads to numerous serious issues, including unintended pregnancies, fatal STDs, and sexual offenses. Individuals may not be aware of their boundaries and may unknowingly agree to inappropriate sexual acts thinking that it is normal. This activity can later prove to be extremely harmful to one’s physical and mental health.
Sex education aids in normalizing sexual and reproductive problems increased knowledge about sexual offenses, STDs, sexual boundaries, myth-busting, etc.
Using contraceptives is vital, especially for sexually active youngsters, to bring down the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, which has its long list of issues. Moreover, unintended pregnancies in adolescents pose immense challenges to both the mother and the baby, including health implications and financial troubles.
In India, the majority of unintended pregnancies occur among the poorer sections of society. The rampant poverty, lack of proper sanitation, and malnutrition make it even harder to support a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Sexual assault is yet another unfortunate consequence of insufficient sex education. Studies conducted on rapists in Delhi prisons reveal that most men do not understand or even know the meaning of consent. Sexual offenses are comparatively higher in rural areas of India, thanks to the prevailing patriarchal dominance. Women and men in rural areas are not aware of their sexual boundaries and rights. Close to 50% of children, both boys, and girls have faced sexual abuse a least once in their lives. Such injustices evidently display the lack of education in our country concerning relationships and sex.
STI and STD
STIs and STDs spread through direct sexual contact, including some chiefly spread by sexual means and others, by nonsexual means. Adding to the existing public health issues, some 30 million Indian adults reportedly carry STD and STIs. Some of the most common STDs in India are syphilis, chlamydia, chancroid, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and human papillomavirus (HPV). Extending this list are some uncurable ones like HIV/AIDS.
AIDS is an autoimmune disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which compromises the body’s immune system to fight off diseases and infections. The AIDS epidemic in India peaked in 2000 and has seen a decline ever since but remains deep-rooted. Although the number of cases is declining, the fatality rates have not. As per the data released by the National Aids Control Organisation, HIV prevalence among adult males (15–49 years) was estimated at 0.24% (0.18–0.32%) and among adult females at 0.20% (0.15–0.26%) in 2019. The highest number of AIDS patients are from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.
India has struggled with overpopulation for many years. As we are going through the pandemic, this has become an unbearable burden. Lack of proper sex education leads to population explosion, and this backfires on the economy. Furthermore, overpopulation has ill effects on the environment, including a bigger carbon footprint. In poorer sections of society, quality of life gets compromised with every additional family member.
A comprehensive education system must include all aspects of sex education. A scientific approach alone does not suffice as well as a socio-scientific approach. Sex education needs to address topics such as consent and sexual boundaries. What was considered taboo until now is to be added to the social dialogue. Information about preventive measures for STDs and unintended pregnancies needs to reach every individual in the country.
Like the saying, change starts within – sex education should begin at home. Parents should talk freely about sex at home. Studies have shown this to have a positive effect on self-esteem and body image issues. Parents must also teach their children to differentiate between ‘good touch; and ‘bad touch’. Talking about sex at home will also assist in breaking any taboos that may be prevailing in society. While India has come a long way in educating its population about sex, we certainly have a long road ahead!