When was the last time you used the Pythagorean theorem or the poetry that you learned by heart in real life?
However, Sexual health is relevant throughout a person’s life, from childhood, through adolescence, and into older age.
Then why is ‘Reproduction / Sexual health’ an optional chapter in science class?
Looking at the current scenario of India, sex education has a long way to go before Indian society understands and accepts its significance in every child’s life. In many cultures, the discussion of anything related to sexual well-being has traditionally been considered taboo. At home, parents are uncomfortable discussing sex with children and at school, the teachers neglect it entirely, which leaves no scope for children to be educated about sexual health.
This Reproductive health awareness day, let’s talk about sex education.
It’s high time people understand that comprehensive sex education is necessary so that kids don’t get incompetent knowledge from friends or the internet, and, as a doctor and an advocate for reproductive health, let me tell you why.
Why is reproductive health awareness the need of the decade?
Well, if you think that the world has bigger problems and sex education is not a necessity, think again; coz it absolutely is. In fact, it will help to solve global problems.
Studies reveal that two out of three girls in some countries have no idea of what is happening to them when they have their first menstrual cycle. Sheltering them from the required knowledge makes them unprepared when in need. Menstruation, periods, and general feminine hygiene lack the required attention. Women deal with infections and pain while considering them normal. Millions of menstruating individuals suffer yearly due to a lack of sanitary napkins. Poor hygiene practices and the shroud of secrecy surrounding the topics act as added factors.
This needs to change!
Around 53% of males and 47% of females surveyed faced some form of sexual abuse in their life, according to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. And the rate of prevalence of underage sexual abuse is alarming!
Most young age victims don’t even recognize molestation, especially when it comes to known perpetrators, for which lack of sex education is the only reason to be blamed.
Too many young people receive confusing and conflicting information about relationships and sex, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Incompetent knowledge leads to accidental pregnancies and in turn, abortions. Contraception is the key and sex education helps to nail this into the minds of everyone and brings its usage into daily practice so that the repercussions are widely limited. So, use latex for safe sex.
Speaking of safe sex, India has the third-largest HIV epidemic globally. Every year about 6% of the adult population in India is affected by sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive tract infections. Not proud of topping the charts?
How much of this can be prevented, with the help of comprehensive sex education and the adoption of safe sex practices?
Let me tell you a sure-shot way to not showcase our country in such statistics - Comprehensive sex education.
If the above reasons don’t convince the urgent need for sex ed, one is only too naive to believe otherwise. But, let me make it easy by putting forth the importance of comprehensive sex education to validate my opinion.
- It helps to increase abstinence until teenagers get older. There is a misconception that sex education makes them want to have sex. In truth, teens who KNOW, often say NO, and refrain from hasty decisions. If they do choose to say yes, the knowledge only helps them become aware of the consequences, take responsibility for their reproductive health and practice safe sex.
- Sex education highlights hygiene issues and provides essential information to maintain hygiene and take care of one’s body.
- It protects teens and children from sexual abuse and violence. Educating them about the mortifying truth, helps them be aware of such scenarios, escape them, and overcome them.
- Reproductive health awareness also helps them set boundaries, respect consent, and helps them recognize the difference between right and wrong. The internet sure doesn’t teach this.
- It will significantly help in the reduction of young-age pregnancies and abortions and prevents the transfer of STIs.
- Sex education is invaluable in helping children build lasting, trusting relationships. It allows them to form healthy attachments with others while minimizing the risks of entering unstable or dangerous relationships.
All these clearly make reproductive health awareness a prime need for which, comprehensive sex education is the solution.
“Sex education is the only subject that will arouse the mind without illuminating it.” ― Mwanandeke Kindembo
Let me address two myths about sex education:
- It is only about sex.
People have so many different conceptions about sex education.
In reality, Sex ed covers a wide range of issues related to health, hygiene, sexuality, safety, gender norms, identity, respect, kindness, self-expression, and power dynamics which are not just about sex. It teaches us about the variation in human bodies, how our bodies work, and the rights that we have over our bodies.
- Sex education is not for children's ears.
When we discuss sexual health, we don't often associate this subject with young children, but with teenagers. Teaching them about their sexual health and well-being is much needed because being minors does not imply that they cannot be abused.
It just needs to be delivered in an age-appropriate and engaging way based on science and facts, starting from home and school and it definitely doesn’t end with the "good touch, bad touch" talk.
Its 2023, yet, comprehensive sex education is not a norm, but a far-fetched dream due to many barriers.,
- Cultural taboo
- Inadequate support from the government
- Lack of trained professionals/teachers
- No awareness. People still believe sex education is equal to intercourse education not knowing what it entails.
Whether it is about maintaining better health or exploring attitudes and making informed choices in life, a proper curriculum of sex education can be worthwhile. Let’s not rely on Netflix’s sex education or worse, the internet to do the job.