Birds and bees, HIV and pregnancies

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Ritika Passi makes the case for expanding sex education in Indian schools

HOW NECESSARY is sex ed in India? One might think we don’t need lessons, as we have a soaring population to stand witness to our aptitude. But sex education is not only about the act; it’s about learning vital life knowledge, and it’s time to pass this knowledge down.

HIV/AIDS has touched over 30 lakh Indians, and young people aged 15-34 are most vulnerable, usually through unsafe sex. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have the most reported AIDS cases, are among the six states that have banned sex education in schools. It’s not hard to see the connection.

Sexual violence is also on the rise. According to a nationwide study by the Department of Women and Child Development, 53.2 percent of children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. Yet not knowing what rape means, how can victims protect themselves? The same applies to teenage pregnancy. A 2005-06 survey by the International Institute for Population Sciences reports that 12 percent of 15 to 19- year-old women are mothers.

Through teaching about sex, pregnancy, abuse and disease, we can help young people cope with puberty’s emotional barrage and impart valuable knowledge to a growing population competing for ever-depleting resources. Would we rather safeguard a building against earthquakes or pick up the pieces after it is destroyed?

While our government is prone to lethargic reactions on such issues, with political factions claiming to be more ‘morally conscientious’ than others, India is full of surprises. With new HRD minister Kapil Sibal wanting to do away with class X board exams and promising regulation to curb ragging, there might just be hope for much-needed winds of change.

It’s time to get over our prudishness, and realise the futility of banning sex education, as seen in BJP-ruled states. Blame globalisation, but we are not a closed society anymore, and conservative fears are therefore baseless and redundant. We’re beginning to experiment, and instead of being a tragic embodiment of ‘curiosity killed the cat’ when it comes to sex, we might as well act knowingly. On this subject, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s time we talk of the birds and the bees.

Passi studies at the Amity School of Communication,  Amity University.
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