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That India desperately needs a holistic sex education program for its adolescent population is given. I don’t think there is a need to reiterate India’s stats on sexual crimes, child abuse, STDs or substance abuse. I was pleasantly surprised to know that the Adolescent Education Program (AEP) of India, launched in 2007, is considered one of the most comprehensive ones by UN.
The Truth about AEP though
I went through the course outline of the AEP program. The program beats around the bush about intercourse, but it has decent material on puberty, bodily changes, prevention of STDs, sexual and substance abuse. It is, apparently, mandated in private schools affiliated to CBSE. So, I started asking students and educators alike on what is being taught at schools, in actual practice.
“I have never had a single class on sex ed! We have had one biology chapter on fertilization – that too was rushed through”, said a 15-year-old NCR student
“We have a chapter on it. But, the teacher said it was not in syllabus and we wouldn’t spend time on it”, said a ninth grader from a CBSE school in Kolkata.
I spoke to a few teachers. Next, all of whom confirmed that nothing is done to impart the AEP course in schools. The schools that are not mandated to follow it has no mention of sex education in any part of their curriculum at all!
When the HDR ministry first introduced the program, there were massive protests from political parties and teachers around the country. The main contention from opponents has been that sex education is contrary to India’s culture, and that it would corrupt youngsters and provoke them sexually. These arguments led 12 Indian states to ban or put off the program from implementation. I don’t know if I was supposed to be amused or annoyed that the HRD ministry in the current government wanted the words ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ removed from the AEP documents.
What do the Parents and Teachers say about this?
I wanted to get a sense of how parents feel about the need for sex education in Indian schools. I spoke to a few mothers on a Facebook group for Bangalore moms. Almost all of them agreed that the need is real. They feel that proper and scientific guidance would help adolescents deal better with emotional and hormonal upheavals, safeguarding against sexual abuse, and sexual health. Karnataka, unfortunately, is one of the states where AEP is banned.
Even in the few schools, where the course is being taught, the teachers are unsure and mildly uncomfortable with the implementation.
“Well, there are manuals to help us, but it is not easy to talk about it naturally to a group of giggly teenagers,” mentioned a senior teacher from a government school in West Bengal.
Of course, it is uncomfortable. In India, parents themselves get uncomfortable and give weird explanations to children’s sexual curiosities. In most households, menstruation, condoms or sex are taboo words, that would be hushed up, even if it comes up accidentally.
So, where are the kids ‘actually’ learning about sex?
Well, while we guard our education system sanctimoniously, and protect our young from ‘provocative’ education, sex is everywhere else in our popular media. These media channels sell everything from mango drink to movies with sexual innuendo. Children are exposed to infinite sources of distorted sexual information. They are either turning to the internet or similarly misinformed peer for their information.
By prohibiting age-appropriate and sensitive education to our youngsters, we deny them a fundamental human right. In fact per a WHO study titled Effects of Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behavior, proper sex education delays the start of sexual activity, reduces sexual activity among young people and encourages those already sexually active to have safer sex.
What should we do to improve the situation?
We should come forward and admit the need to enable educators and parents first. The guardians need the right tools and syntax to deal with a child’s curiosity. If we are serious about controlling our sexual crime and health problems, the Indian government must shed its misplaced moral censorship and hypocrisy, and enable proper implementation of the AEP program.
What are your thoughts on Adolescent Sex Education in India? Comment below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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