We Don’t Need No (Sex) Education

sex-ed-graphicIn high school, around the turn of the millennium, I attended a very heated debate.

The topic: No sex education please, we’re Indians

I can’t for the life of me remember what people who spoke for the motion had to say. They of course had to prove not just that we don’t need sex education, but that we don’t need it because we’re Indians.

We’re almost a decade past that day but the debate continues.

So what makes sex so un-Indian?

Some people will tell you that talking about sex to teenagers is not in line with our culture and traditions. That is a very valid point in a country where child marriage and female-feticide is apparently more in line with our ‘heritage’.

The debate should have never been about whether we should educate youngsters about sex but about what is the best way to do it. Parents often argue that sex-ed classes make no sense as children then start ‘thinking’ about something they shouldn’t be. Wake up mamas and papas, teenagers are anyway thinking about it, but its about whether you want their information to be from Google or you.

I remember the sex-ed class during my penultimate year in school. Girls and boys were segregated and two women from a local NGO came in to tell us all we wanted and needed to know. I faintly recollect certain diagrams being drawn, a classmate asking about why virginity was tested the way it was when we could very well ‘lose’ it while cycling and much ado about contraceptives. I also recall that when the boys were having their ‘session’ we had to go in and get our bags and there was a lot of giggling and awkwardness around the whole deal. I got back home that day and related the whole thing to my folks, sounding all wise about it…made easier by the fact that they’re doctors and I was talking in medical terms.

As it turns out sex-ed classes aimed at teenagers are not a crash course in Vatsyana’s Kama Sutra. Nobody is telling them that sex is great or how it should be practiced for a pleasure-filled life. The argument runs that teaching teenagers about safe sex means giving them the green signal to ‘experiment’ since it’s all safe. Fears emanating from the idea that sex education leads to promiscuity are not well founded.

Adults can’t continue to be prudes all the way. Teenagers across decades have commonalities. But the differences are just as obvious. It doesn’t work to get all nostalgic and think “we got along just fine without our parents telling us anything about sex”. While controversies around this concept continue, so do the increase in stimuli in a teenager’s world. Gone are the days when the first main encounter with giggle inducing topics was the biology class on human reproduction. Television is passé. The world wide web is the answer to all questions, innocuous and otherwise. And controlling access to the same is that much more difficult.

Teen-age continues to be tricky business. So the question really is, are we going to lay out the right information from a trusted source or have them shoot in the dark till they hurt themselves too bad. And teenagers aren’t the only ones who need educating. Parents and teachers require some lessons in dealing with boys and girls who’re too young to vote but old enough to be opinionated about all else.

We certainly can’t turn condom toting sex educators in a day.

In this country where sex is still a dirty little three letter word, getting past pre-conceived notions of adults is going to take much more than prescribed sex education school textbooks for their children.

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2 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No (Sex) Education

  1. I had the opportunity to attend a lecture from a person who was on the committee for framing the new Criminal Law(Amendment) Act, 2013. He said he “rushed back” when he found that the other members were making minor-minor sex legal. And subsequently, it was off the table. He is also big on alternative medicines and bunch of other things I don’t really recall (just to give you some perspective). The point is, the question of sex education at school level doesn’t arise in a country where it would encourage students to indulge in something ‘illegal’, not that they won’t. And the policy of pointing in the right direction but not showing you the way is in compliance with everything else in this country.

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