“Let’s talk about sex.” When are we going to say this to our kids? We gave the world the Kamasutra and we are the ones shying away from the talk. Or are we pretending that it doesn’t exist? Well, being the second largest population in the world, I doubt we are in a position to do that. It’s high time Indian parents took sex education seriously.
Growing up as a curious kid, I have often asked many questions about the various things around me and my parents have been more than happy to answer them all. ‘All’ except about sex and menstruation. I remember watching television as a small kid (or even as a teen) with my family and my dad invariably switching the channel whenever an advertisement of sanitary napkins or an ‘adult scene’ would pop up. And if the remote wouldn’t work, he would immediately start distracting me with little help from mom. At that time I had no clear idea of what exactly it was all about but I was sure it was something ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. So, along with others, I just used to wait for that moment to pass. Even when I had gathered my guts to ask my mom a couple of times about the purpose of those napkins or how the couple in the movie suddenly got that kid, I used to get to hear “You’ll know when you grow up!” or an even more convenient “Beshi Paka Hoyechho, Na?” (“Being over smart, eh?”)
It might now seem funny to recall the helplessness of our parents back then but the greater threat that it imposes on the youth of this country should not be ignored. In India, sex, menstruation and anything related to these topics are taboos. Parents avoid or delay the conversation with their children because they feel embarrassed to even pronounce the word ‘sex’ in front of them, thanks to the upbringing they themselves had received from their parents. They expect their kids to figure things out by themselves by the time they are of age (to bear a child). In the meantime they don’t want to ‘corrupt’ the innocent minds of their children. However, in many cases, that is exactly what happens due to ignorance.
During our times, all we had, in the name of sex education, was romantic novels, porn and the countless immature under-the-breath discussions with friends. Even in schools, the chapter of Reproductive System was either excluded from the biology syllabus or taught only well enough to answer the question paper. Today’s children, of course, have the internet where information is much easily accessible. However, for a topic so sensitive and critical, random keyword search cannot be our solution. Moreover, internet results can sometimes be contradictory, confusing and misleading. A structured systematic approach has to be there. We cannot afford to have ill-informed, misinformed or misinterpreting youth in every generation prone to experimentation and vulnerable to bitter consequences. Keeping in mind that currently a quarter of Indian population fall in the age group of 10 to 19, the risk is indeed high.
We must understand that sex education is not only about how to have sex or the birth controls and family planning but also about menstrual cycle, health, hygiene, body image, gender identity, sexual rights, decision-making and general mentality of the budding youth. If not guided properly right from their childhood, the kids might grow up to have distorted idea about sex & sexual desires, acquire unhygienic and unsafe sexual habits or take immature sexual decisions leading to physical, psychological and social problems in future.
You can’t wait for that one fine day to break the ice. Sex education must start much early in their lives, right from the time when the children are slowly discovering their bodies. Parents need to support their kids through their various sexual phases of life and keep talking to them about it to ease the air between the young and the adult. Awareness and frankness with parents can also prevent cases of unaddressed sexual abuse among children. Parents need to guide the minors to form the right perception about their own and the opposite sex. If your daughter is having unprotected sex or your son is considering women as sex objects, it’s probably because that’s what they have learnt, since childhood, from the porn videos or acquired from their equally ignorant friends while you, as a parent, have never explicitly taught them otherwise. And silence doesn’t count as a lesson.
Indian parents should take sex education as seriously as they do with their children’s entrance exams. Back in 2007, when Indian government tried to introduce the Adolescence Education Programme in schools, it caused huge uproar among those unenlightened parents who were more concerned about their country’s culture than their own children. The resistance from people was so strong that the program was banned in 13 states, 5 of which are still maintaining the same till date. Even in the remaining states, it faces much neglect. However, we cannot wait for the whole system to change. Charity begins at home and so does sex education. We, the Indians of 21st century, the current and future parents of young adults must pledge to be more sensitive with our kids and not fog their lives with lies or silence. Let’s say it together, “I will talk to my child about SEX.”