TODAY -

Sex Education needs to be liberalised not retrograded

Samarjit Kambam *

30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at JN Dance Academy Hall, DM College Campus, Imphal :: May 19 2013
30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at JN Dance Academy Hall Imphal on May 19 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



No matter how fast you drive a vehicle, the rear wheel(s) will never catch up with the front wheel(s). The Health Minister Harsh Vardhan's alleged comments on sex education which caused a great stir throughout India is like the theory of the vehicle wheels - the rear wheels catching up with the front wheels, impracticable. After suggesting that to prevent AIDS, fidelity in marriage is better than use of condoms, he himself being a medical doctor has generated another controversy - this time in his website by stating, "So-called 'sex education' should be banned" in his "vision" document for Delhi schools. His website also stated the need to integrate spiritual education and put strong emphasis on exposing students to India's cultural values.

His views, of course, have some significant relevance. But it can be ascertained from his comments that abstinence and moral value far exceeds and have a greater role to play than use of contraceptives and condoms to avoid STDs(Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and unwanted pregnancy especially among teens is like turning one's back towards the harsh reality the world is facing.

His comment is like 'start travelling at the speed of light' before we are able to make a rocket that can travel at that speed. His message, of course, is tantamount to the old age adage "Prevention is better than cure". Its like a doctor in a hospital telling a newly admitted patient "I won't be able to look after your illness and cure you for you should have prevented before you get ill". But who wants to get sick or ill? During such critical situation isn't the ethical duty of the doctor to look after the incoming patient and do his best to cure the illness if it is a curable one?

Inculcating India's cultural values of refraining from sex cannot happen overnight, especially to the teens and adolescents. His comments were based in such a way that maintaining high moral standard is more important than using condoms. His idea is that we don't need it and should instead rely on teaching kids Indian values. Seems like sex education to the health minister in school means 'how' to have sex which is a mindset totally gone astray. But one thing to be kept in mind is high moral is not the only solution for preventing AIDS.

Let us paint a picture in our minds of a person of high moral going through an ordeal of physical relationship with an HIV infected person without his consent but out of circumstances beyond his control. The deadly virus(HIV) doesn't have the rationality to determine whether the person has a high moral or not. At this critical juncture, it is worth mentioning that condom will act as a firewall or a safety net which his high morality couldn't.

True, developing a spiritual attitude, gaining spiritual height where the mind can easily control the urge and cravings of the body need time, effort and guidance. Moral values are imparted in school curricula in India. But when a kid reaches the adolescence period, lot of hormonal changes take place inside his/her body and it's a biological urge to implore, explore and experiment with sex. Curiosity of body anatomy of the opposite sex rises high when one reaches puberty and brings dramatic and emotional changes to a growing up child.

The Indian Vedic culture has been highly embraced by the western countries. During the Vedic age one seeked for spirituality by going at the foothill of the Himalayas or other peaceful places when one reaches the middle age - after raising a family, known or experienced many vices of the world. Gautam Buddha was a living example. Swami Vivekananda was also an ardent follower of vedic culture and spirituality. But not everyone can be demi-gods like them.

So, spiritual life and the critical life's phase of puberty can hardly go in tandem. When it comes to having sex between opposite sexes, there is no need for tutorial class because it is based on instinct. So sex education isn't there to tell us how to, its there to tell us how responsibly. The less we tell our kids and the more taboo we make our conversation about sex, the worst off and the worst conseqeuences they will be.

No sex before marriage is easier said than done as expressed by the minister which has a very shaky foundation. Everybody has their private lives. The government cannot be a peeping tom on privy of every individuals physical affairs. One will become a victim of STDs before attaining spirituality if unsafe sex takes place between two willing male and female. We have to use pragmatism to keep our teenagers safe from STDs and unwanted pregnancies because quite frankly moral and values go only so far.

Sex education will not only catch the attention of the students but will also help change in their behaviours. Lack of knowhow about what is 'normal' sexual development can lead to unnecessary anxiety about children's interest in nudity, 'rude' things and sex. It is important to understand the stages of sexual development as children are likely to go through at different ages and what we can do to help them adjust to the changes they will experience.

Developing good sex education takes responsibility for this aspect of children's growth and development. If schools won't take the subject on, children will turn to other sources of information that may not be reliable such as the internet or the media as now-a-days, a kid studying in class five standard can easily browse the web, watch and download pictures, clips or movies on porns. The obscenity imprinted on the young one's mind could later turn out to be a disaster in his life as well as other's lives and society if used wrongly or unchecked.

Sexuality is an intrinsic part of human experience, not something that can be separated out of the rest of our lives. Sex education considers sexuality in the context of our bodies, our lives, and our social world. It may not cover everything but it doesn't segregate sex and treat sexuality as a completely separate phenomenon from the rest of our experience.

Sex education acknowledges that understanding sex and sexuality require us to think about the individual, community, society, and the world as a whole. Sex education also plays a great role in protecting individuals' rights to be free from discrimination by challenging racism, ableism and other systemic forms of discrimination that intersect with sexual expression. This does not mean that it forces us to change our fundamental beliefs. Rather it budges us to think beyond your own beliefs and learn to communicate with others in a respectful way about sexual matters.

Sex education cannot be treated at par with other subjects or issues. It needs an open mindset and a highly liberalised and comprehensive platform. It should be initiated since primary schooling stage. No discomfort or embarrassment between students and teachers should pop up when it comes to sex education. More emphasis needs to be given to sex education without any excusable barriers. It should be borne in mind that safety should always come first. After safety it is responsibility.

Incidents of rapes, molestations and crimes prove to be more detrimental and hazardous to the lives of many women, girl and children in our society. Sex education should also inculcate the value of gender equality and make them aware of the menaces of gender discrimination taking place in our country so that such crimes are kept at bay by inculcating to the minds of the young kids that man and woman are just like two sides of the same coin. That way male chauvinism will get a heavy beating.

Besides, sex education imparts knowledge to the students to respect the opposite sex. Only then, the machoistic patriarchial society like ours will gradually change. The notion where girls and women are seen only as objects of desire can be uprooted from the psyche of Indians males which has been embedded too deeply since time immemorial. Sex education is the only weapon to tackle this.

When it comes to sex, the idea of 'abstinence-only' especially among adolescents will hardly work. Its like imposing a dry state by the government while on the other hand the number of drunkards increase. We need sex education so young people are less at risk, so that they can learn the facts, set up their boundaries without fear of being called a prude or a ho and find happiness and joy in their sexuality. In fact safety and responsibility should go hand in hand when it comes to sex and openness in sex education is the numero uno factor for a safer world.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 25, 2014.


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