A special fast track court in Kerala sentenced a man to stringent imprisonment of five years in January for sexually abusing a minor boy in 2020 under the POCSO Act. The judgement came as a result of the nine year old boy’s strong remark that he knew he was exploited because he was taught in his school, the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch. This highlights the importance of imparting proper sex education to our children.
The terms ‘sex’ and ‘sexuality’ is still considered to carry a lot of stigma and shame in the Indian society and is considered culturally inappropriate. The sudden fumble to change the television channel to a family- friendly content when an intimate scene comes up to the disgusting comments under social media posts are all testimonies of the lack of sex education in our society. Every time a teacher skips the chapter on ‘Human Reproduction,’ students fail to understand their body and its basic anatomy. The biggest barrier towards sex education is probably India’s cultural norms against talking about sex. Parents tend to think that imparting this information to their students would corrupt their child and a large part of this controversy arises due to the misconception that sexuality education can increase the sexual experiments among adolescents and that it would compromise the morale of the society.
Reproductive health problems such as HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions are closely associated to inadequate knowledge about sexuality, reproduction and lack of access to contraceptions. Autonomy to one’s body, importance of consent, reproductive rights, body positivity, sexual orientation, sexual hygiene are few among the many things that sex ed provides unlike what majority thinks it is. Discussions around the phenomena of sex and sexuality are hushed upon by the society since it is considered as a western influence that corrupts Indian culture. While many believe school students are in the right position, some think they are not mature enough to understand the implication of the subject.
Former Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan was in opposition to the idea of implementing sex education in Indian schools. Instead, he proposed that yoga should be mandatory and asserted that sex education stands against the great Indian traditional values. After Vardhan’s comments, there were several threats of physical violence against teachers and schools who promoted sex education that led to the ban of these classes in different states.
Children and young people have the right to receive reliable, science-based and comprehensive information about their bodies. Many young people obtain complicated and conflicting information about relationships, sexuality and their bodies which has a lot of influence in their period of transitioning from a child to adult. It is essential that they grow up with relevant ideas in their mind which prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life. CSE not only provides age-appropriate education on human rights, gender equality, relationships, reproduction, sexual behaviour risks, and disease prevention to children and young people, but it also allows them to view sexuality in a positive light, emphasising values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility, and reciprocity.
Providing sex education in schools is all the more important at present because students tend to go to the wrong resources to seek guidance. This would convey a distorted image of sexuality and lack of information about the rights every individual has in terms of sexuality. Sex education in schools are not only for educating students about their body but is also a powerful tool in combating violence, abuse and discrimination and to promote respect for diversity. Existing curriculum does not give proper importance to the LGBTQA+ community which affects the queer kids since they are likely to suffer bullying. It is crucial to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination against women. It should thus contribute to the transmission of strong messages in favour of gender equality, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, consent to sexual relations, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, and respect for personal integrity beginning in the early stages of education.
Thus, it is important that sex education should be a part of the curriculum by law. Information provided to students should be relevant, scientific, ethical and based on human rights standards. It is essential to provide parents and families about what sex education really is and it is pivotal that teachers receive adequate specialized training and support for teaching CSE. With persevering resistance towards sex education, there should be more initiatives and policies from the political leadership authorities to remind the public that comprehensive sexuality education is a basic human right, it is about knowing one’s right and respecting others’, it is about looking after one’s health and adopting positive attitude towards sexuality and healthy relationships. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.