Sex education in India

Sex education is the instruction of issues related to human sexuality and to help young people gain information about sexual activity including emotional relations, consent and awareness about sexual abuse.

It is often believed that these educative values would necessarily lead to identity formation and affect the behavioral patterns of the children. It has been observed that excessive ‘openness’ towards simply knowing about same gender relationships, especially when these relationships are presented in a positive way, can make child more likely to become ‘homosexual’. School is not considered to be the ideal place where much concern should be provided to the idea of homosexuality.

In India, topics such as menstruation and homosexuality are avoided and much more emphasis is given on HIV/AIDS infection. Regardless of the growing child abuse and rape cases, there is no heed paid to explaining these kind of issues to teenagers, let even differentiating between non-sexual and sexual touch. A study conducted by The Ministry of Women’s and Children Development revealed that 53% of children between 5 to 12 years have been sexually abused which was mostly the parents doing, legal guardians or a close member of the family. Many programs were initiated by the government to educate children about Sexual Education, body image, violence and abuse, especially drugs and other toxic attitudes like Adolescent Education Program, The Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education etc. were banned by most of the states because the programs content were considered ‘inappropriate’. There has been this constant claim that sexual education will spread risky behavior among teens and adolescents.

The sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents in India are overlooked or are simply not understood by the healthcare system. Due to the cultural and traditional “norms” of the society and their homophobic behaviour, topics like these are prevented from being publicly expressed.

In 2014, India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan expressed his thoughts about Sex Ed, further leading to ban it and said instead of that yoga should be made compulsory in schools. According to him it was against the Indian values. His comments about these raised an uproar among opposers. Around the same time as Vardhan’s comments, the right wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti led an attack against teachers and schools that included threats of physical violence against teachers and schools that dared to carry out the 2007 health education program.

And after years of Sex Education being banned in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced an sexual education program in 2018. In this program students will be taught about sexual violence and health among other topics.

We need to make sure that parents and legal guardians are able to improve interpersonal interactions with adolescents and can help in creating spaces for dialogues that are free of stigma and bias. This might be the most sustainable way to improve outcomes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

The biggest barrier towards sexual education in India will probably be cultural norms against talking about sex. These norms are heavily ingrained in Indian society. However, India is making small but important steps to provide more comprehensive sex education.

-Emily Joy Oomen