Sex Education in India - Need of The Hour: Civil Services Mentor Magazine January 2013


The term ‘Sex Education’, also known as sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is widely used to depict education about reproductive system, sexual interaction and other facets of human sexual behavior. It is the procedure of gaining knowledge and developing mind-set as well as ideas about sex, sexual identity, human relations, closeness, gender roles, contraception methods and prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)1 and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)2. It is also an effective way to respect one’s partner, wife, husband and also a means to admire sexual preferences. The misinterpretation of the people that are generally kept under the wraps should be cleared and they should be convinced about the need for sex education in this rapidly changing era. It is important that youth should be familiar with the purpose of providing education in order to develop an open and healthy approach towards sex and sexuality in order to assist them to make well-thought judgments.

A parliamentary committee, with a varied political membership, recently recommended that there should be no sex education in schools. Sex even if done at the proper time, with a proper person, in a proper place, is a topic that makes many Indians uncomfortable. The committee itself refused a power point presentation on the question “after going through the hard copy because of its explicit contents. The Committee felt that it was not comfortable with it and could be embarrassing especially to the lady Members and other lady staff present.” The committee has recommended that chapters like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ be removed from the general curriculum. Instead, they want these topics to be included in biology syllabus for school leaving classes. This leaves the students of the non-Biology streams at sea. In school, two years before school leaving exams, I remember waiting expectantly as our Biology teacher reached the last page of a chapter on the Skin, which ended with a description of the anatomy of the female breast. The teacher, a female, was an old hand and probably sensed the collective eagerness. She promptly skipped the page and went on to the questions at the end of the chapter. A couple of years later as a Biology student in my school leaving year, the most dog eared pages in our Biology text book described the physiology of the female orgasm and the female reproductive system. These pages too were skipped on the plea of self study. At home, any discussion of ‘these’ was possible only in hushed tones with my brother. Involving your parents was out of question. Nice kids are not supposed to take any interest in ‘these’ things. It’s a given. Jyoti Bajpai, a development professional working in the field of reproductive and sexual health, recalls her own experience on sex education. She and her female class mates at school were called away for a session on sex education on a pretext. “What information we were imparted was limited to menstruation and menstrual hygiene and little else. It’s amazing that boys in my class were kept completely out of this. We were expressly warned against discussing any thing with them.” When my mother was growing up her parents did their best to postpone the acknowledgement of the fact. She had to turn to her friends.

Things were much the same for my parents and my generation, but are they finally going to change for the coming generation? But many Indians don’t see it as reason to deny adolescents the right knowledge, especially with 2.47 million cases of HIV infected persons in the country and with sexual transmission being the predominant mode of HIV transmission. The NACO website says, “Most young people become sexually active during adolescence. In the absence of right guidance and information at this stage they are more likely to have multi-partner unprotected sex with high risk behaviour groups… “ With increasing exposure to television and internet sex education does not imply teaching kids about sex, which knowledge they will pick up anyways, but for many proponents of sex education it definitely means teaching them about what safe, healthy and acceptable sexual behaviour is.