There is not yet consensus regarding the inclusion of sex education in school curricula or the method of providing unambiguous sex education, particularly to adolescents. With the average age of puberty declining, knowing about sex and one’s own body at an early age is of utmost importance, claim educationists. The risk faced by children of sexual abuse point further to the need for sex education.
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We, in ALF believe that sex education helps young people to both acquire information on and develop a healthy outlook towards sex and intimate relationships. It equips them to resist abuse and protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS. The objective of sex education is to help to reduce the risks of potentially negative outcomes, such as teen pregnancies, infection with STDs, and enhancing the quality of relationships. Therefore, we conducted lessons on Puberty, Safe sex and importance of contraceptives.
The first lesson that we conducted in this context was a simple introduction to male and female reproductive systems. Initially, students were quite hesitant to talk about the topic in general. It took some time for them to open up to the topic. Their interactions went on increasing as we went ahead to learn puberty. Girls could relate to the social and emotional changes related to puberty explained in the class. As students started opening up, they came up with a lot of questions. Questions that were unanswered for a long period of time. It is important for adolescents to learn and adapt to the physiological and psychological changes in different stages of development.
Three lessons on sex education were conducted over a period of a week explaining reproductive systems, puberty, and sex. Not to our surprise, a lot of students already knew about sex but their ideas were highly adulterated. It was a task to make them develop a healthy outlook towards sex and intimate relationships.
The approach of sex education in India needs to be different from its approach in other countries because of the number of child marriages that take place in India every year. According to the National Family Health Survey conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) and Macro International in 2005-06, 12% women aged between 15-19 years are mothers. The survey said that one in six Indian women aged 15-19 starts to have children. Dr Sunil Mehra, director of the MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child, says, “Youth in India needs sex education more than in any other country since child marriage ensures that you not only have sex at a young age, you also have teenage pregnancy.”
Majority of our students come from a highly challenged socioeconomic background. They live in Dharavi slums, Shivaji nagar slums and Sion Koliwada, which only puts them at a higher risk of getting sexually abused. Therefore, we conducted a lesson next week to help them differentiate safe and unsafe touch. Here is a link to the video that played an important role in our lesson.
Educational programs in school should provide information on and opportunities for the development of the skills of the students, as well as for the clarification of their attitudes. The mass media, supported by local governmental and non-governmental agencies, are playing an important role to raise public awareness of sexual health issues. At the same time, it must be ensured that the dissemination of sex education does not clash with regional, religious and cultural values.