The Need for Comprehensive Sex Education in Schools
We are the people of the twenty-first century. We live in an age where nearly all the information about the world is available at our fingertips. We consider our societies ‘developed’, our citizens ‘educated’. Yet, how is it that we have failed to provide the youth of our country with the most fundamental knowledge— that of their feelings and bodies?
Sexual education in Indian society is a highly stigmatized topic. In the classroom, discussions on it take place in hushed tones, as fidgeting students exchange glances and nudges, and teachers quickly skim over the chapter. Rather than addressing the common questions that arise in the minds of students— teachers and parents alike, raise their eyebrows at them when they bring them up, keeping them in an ignored silence. The consequences of this suppression of curiosity are considerably dire.
Adolescents start to look for other sources of information— which could be fellow students, books, the internet, and worst of all, popular media and pornography. These sources rarely succeed in providing the youth with the full story. The result? A spike in Sexually Transmitted Infections, abuse, assault, unwanted pregnancies— and worst of all, fear, as young, unprepared, and misinformed children remain perplexed about their anatomy and compare their bodies to unjust and false standards.
All of these factors, when analyzed, simply point to a failure of education and society. Merely claiming to put them in chapters is not enough, when chapters only teach basic biology and a few lines on the possibility of unusual feelings. Even these lack key information on menstruation, menstrual hygiene, and growth and maturity of reproductive organs.
The very beginning of the age of adolescence has to be the starting point of elemental sex education. Approximately 21% of the Indian population is composed of adolescents— highlighting the vitality of the addition of proper sexual education in schooling. By the time schools teach the average Indian adolescent about their basic reproductive biology, their onset of puberty is well underway. These institutions should ideally inform students about the development of their minds and bodies much before they do at present.
Comprehensive sexual education is the need of the hour. Global organizations such as OHCHR, CEDAW, and CRC— all appeal for the addition of quality sexual education, a human right, in educational institutions. Comprehensive sexuality education deals with more than just reproductive health and anatomy. It extends to accurate information about protection, contraception, gender equality, and provides a more profound insight into the recognition and prevention of sexual abuse. It includes breaking societal taboos, family life, and the requirement for change in our cultures.
As various studies have shown, teaching adolescents and young adults abstinence is futile and ineffective. As said by the UNFPA, this education must also be of high-quality and requires thorough training and maintenance. A vital requirement is the engagement of parents, guardians, and family members in these conversations. Destigmatisation and training is a process that must be inclusive of all ages for sexual education to be of full effect.
Finally, let us take a look at the present examples of how comprehensive sexual education has led to a better society. Statistics show that communities with comprehensive sexual education have lower rates of underage pregnancies and transmission of STIs— sex education does not increase sexual activity. There is a reduction in sexual assault and a higher demand for sexual consent. They have a more open, inclusive culture and higher standards of living.
Our rapidly developing transitional country has the scope to be even better than these existing examples. Every state and territory that includes this as a part of education enables an enhancement of mentality and society. When every child, teenager, and adult— regardless of gender and status— is provided quality comprehensive sexual education, a landmark change is made.
We are citizens of the twenty-first century. We live in an age where nearly all the information about the world is available at our fingertips. We consider our societies ‘developed’, our citizens ‘educated’. Yet, how is it that we have failed to provide the youth of our country with the most fundamental knowledge— that of their feelings and bodies?
Our rapidly developing transitional country has the scope to be even better than these existing examples. Every state and territory that includes this as a part of education enables an enhancement of mentality and society. Every adolescent and adult, regardless of gender and status, provided quality comprehensive sexual education, counts.
By: Yashasvini Verma
School: Amity International School, Noida