systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Need for Sex Education in Schools

I was not shying away from this topic. Yes, it is late, but better late then never. I was going through my notes on the subject when I realized that I have not posted anything on this topic. I talked about Social stigma of an unwed mother, but this topic should have come somewhere at that time only. I wrote that post in May 2009 and at that time only in April, a parliamentary committee had put forward his stand on the issue.

The committee recommended that there should be no sex education in schools. The committee itself refused a power point presentation on the question “after going through the hard copy because of its explicit contents.  The Committee felt that it was not comfortable with it and could be embarrassing especially to the lady Members and other lady staff present.”

The committee had also recommended that the chapters like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ be removed from the general curriculum. Instead, they want these topics to be included in biology syllabus at plus two stage of schooling.

"Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy." It also recommended that students should be made aware of the fact that indulging in sex outside the institution of marriage was against social ethos.

In school, during a biology class (we were in class X at that time) everyone was waiting expectantly when our teacher skipped an entire chapter, which was schedule for that day. The chapter included the anatomy of the female breast. Similarly, topics on Human Reproduction were also skipped.  In place of introducing us on the topics, we were introduced to yet another stigma of our society.  Somehow, I wonder, we live in the world of stigmas. Even after charting out a fantastic path in the field of sciences, rationalism, education,  etc.  we still have these kinds of stigmas prevailing in the society. It is not only the case in India but many countries in the world.

I also wonder teachers are regarded as the most-ideal person. In my opinion they are the people who can end torrent of wretchedness by educating the society. They are the people who can emancipate the society from the stigmas that it faces. But somehow the incident in my school-days made me realize that even teachers succumb to these stigmas. When emancipator is not free from these mores then how will they be able to free the society.  There is something wrong in our education system because education which is considered as an emancipator is itself controlled.

Sex-education has become an intensely controversial issue because unlike most subjects, sex education is concerned with an especially sensitive and highly personal part of human life. I understand that sex even if done at the proper time, with a proper person, in a proper place, is a topic that makes many Indians uncomfortable. You cannot discuss this topic at home or school as “nice kids are not supposed to take any interest in ‘these’ things.”

However, there are many, including me, who think that sex-education should be imparted in schools. Given to understand that there are 2.47 million cases of HIV infected persons in the country and with sexual transmission being the predominant mode of HIV transmission, I do not see any reason to deny adolescents the right knowledge on the subject.

Teaching topics like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ as par of biology is a work of deception. As Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich commented that sex education of his time was a work of deception, focusing on biology while concealing excitement-arousal, which is what a pubescent individual, is mostly interested in. Reich added that this emphasis obscures what he believed to be a basic psychological principle that all worries and difficulties originate from unsatisfied sexual impulses.

As per NACO’s website,

In India people in the age group of 15-29 years comprise almost 25 percent of the country’s population; however, they account for 31 percent of AIDS burden. This clearly indicates that young people are at high risk of contracting HIV infection. Most young people become sexually active during adolescence. In the absence of right guidance and information at this stage they are more likely to have multi-partner unprotected sex with high risk behaviour groups.

With increasing exposure to television and internet, children will gain knowledge about sex eventually. The purpose of sex education should therefore be to teach them what safe, healthy and acceptable sexual behaviour is covering proponents of reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, contraception, and other aspects of human sexual behaviour.

The argument in favour of sex-education in school can be summed up with argument put forward by Gandhiji,

 We cannot properly control or conquer the sexual passion by turning a blind eye to it. I am, therefore, strongly in favour of teaching young boys and girls the significance and right use of their generative organs... But the sex education that I stand for must have for its object the conquest and sublimation of the sex passion. Such education should automatically serve to bring home to children the essential distinction between man and brute, to make them realize that it is man's special privileged and pride to be gifted with the faculties of head and heart both; that he is a thinking no less than a feeling animal, as the very derivation of the word shows, and to renounce the sovereignty of reason over the blind instincts is, therefore, to renounce a man's estate. In man, reason quickens and guides the feeling, in brute, the soul lies ever dormant. To awaken the heart is to awaken the dormant soul, to awaken reason, and to inculcate discrimination between good and evil… To-day, our entire environment—our reading, our thinking, our social behaviour—is generally calculated to sub-serve and cater for the sex urge. To break through its coils is no easy task. But it is a task worthy of our highest endeavour.

Sexual education may thus be seen as providing individuals with the knowledge necessary to liberate themselves from socially organized sexual oppression and to make up their own minds. An open dialogue about physical intimacy and health education can generate more self-esteem, self-confidence, humour and general health.

Behaviour   Polity   Social Issues