Indian Express reports: The Madhya Pradesh has decided to end the Adolescent Education Programme (AEP), two years after it was introduced in class IX and XI, saying "sex education has no place in Indian culture".
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's decision came a day after he met Deenanath Batra, chairman of RSS body 'Shiksha Bachao Samiti'. Batraji advised the CM that yoga should be included in the curriculum in place of sex education.
Apparently, NSUI had also recently protested the use of 'graphic anatomical pictures' in the kit provided to teachers. Teachers themselves had protested against "indecency in the name of education".
ET reports:According to some teachers, illustrations in the book showing physical changes in male and female bodies from childhood to puberty to adulthood were offensive. They said they would not be able to talk to students regarding the same or show such diagrams.
The diagrams in question are similar to what is contained in many biology books taught to school children showing the human anatomy. However, teachers in Madhya Pradesh argued, the human anatomy was different from sexual organs.
One Mr Rajesh Tiwari, principal of government-run Excellence School in Bhopal, believes AIDS is a different issue and sex is different.
"Why do you need these diagrams of nude boys and girls? It is against our culture to talk sex and show such diagrams to our students. Fifty years ago, teachers did not need to speak of sex to students. So why the necessity today?
Why should a 15-year-old be openly spoken to about sex? Just tell them that according to Indian tradition, every man has to lead the life of a ‘bramhachari (bachelor)’ till the age of 25. Tell them AIDS can be contacted through a used syringe or blood transfusion."
There have been similar concerns in Kerala.
My reply to Tiwariji, Batraji and all others concerned about the impact of sex education on ‘Indian culture’:
50 years ago we only had Binaca Geetmala on All India Radio. Today we have item girls in bikini tops and chaddis jiggling it on prime time television.
50 years ago Bollywood couples only danced around trees. Today they kiss, have sex and sometimes even get pregnant before marriage. Then, proudly carry around their bump.
50 years ago most Indian girls attained puberty at age 13-14. Today, it’s as early as 9.
A recent survey by the Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA) of 250 girls in the 10-19 age group in 12 districts found that 70 % want sex education to be made a part of curriculum in schools.
The survey found that over 60 percent of the girls were facing a communication gap with their parents due to shyness and fear, and 80 percent were unaware of physical changes in their bodies during adolescence.
As many as 47 percent of the girls indicated that they were sexually harassed outside their homes. Of these, 53 percent said they had never complained to their guardians about it.
NCERT’s AEP (Adolescence Education Programme) includes activity sessions to learn about sexual molestation and its prevention. The program also has modules on homosexuality being a preference rather than an abnormality. And questions like: “When did you first have wet dreams? Did that change your approach to girls?”
I haven’t seen the actual syllabus but it hardly seems as if giving this kind of information is ‘encouraging’ sexual activity. If anything, young people get their doubts answered by a credible source rather than hearsay.
Secondly, class IX to XI students are around 14-16 years of age and ‘not too young’. In fact, if anything, it’s a bit late in the day and they already know.
I personally think by age 9-10 the biological aspect should be explained by parents to their kids, along with some of the value-based, emotional and cultural issues which come up in adolescence.
We can’t pretend that sex is possible only after marriage because kids will find out that’s a lie. But we can communicate that in our culture, as well as experience, it is better to wait. That having sex is a big decision, with emotional repercussions, and must not be taken lightly.
However I find a lot of parents – even urban, educated types – would rather ignore the issue altogether or wait till the child is ‘old enough’. For some, that day never really comes. A parent recently told me that some mothers arranged a session with a gynaec for their girls in class IV and V. So she could explain to them ‘everything’ and answer any questions they had.
This particular mom did not feel comfortable sending her 10 year old. I’m not sure why. She’ll simply get hand-me-down information from the girls who did attend… So why be shy??
The parents vs the state
The does-sex-education-encourage-sex debate is not confined to our country alone. There is a huge controversy in the US on this issue as well. There is a divide between parents who believe schools should impart only ‘abstinence education’ and professionals who believe it is imperative to also impart information on birth control.
Abstinence education was created in the early 1980s by Marion Howard, a professor at Atlanta's Emory University. Apparently, when Howard asked 1,000 sexually active teenage girls what they most wanted to know about sex, 84 % said they wanted to learn "how to say no without hurting the other person's feelings."
So was born the Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) which uses acting, mimicking, and role-playing to tell 5th, 6th and 7th graders that they are too young to have sex. The unique aspect is the message to abstain is best delivered by kids of their own age. Sessions are conducted by trained ‘peer leaders’ under teacher supervision.
Formal evaluation of the program reveals that PSI makes teens less likely to indulge in sexual activity in the year following abstinence education. And 4 years later, in the 12th grade,1/ 3rd of participating girls are less likely to become pregnant.But that sounds like a pretty vague statistic to me.
According to MSNBC 66% of American high school students have had sex by their senior year. And these same teens are paying the price by contracting dangerous — and sometimes deadly — sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, 65 percent of all sexually transmitted infections contracted by Americans this year will occur in people under 24.
Yet only 18 US states and the District of Columbia require schools to provide sex education The WHO believes that there is no evidence that comprehensive sex education programs encourage sexual activity. This was their conclusion after a study of 35 such programs around the world. And I am inclined to agree...
The way forward
Since a majority Indian parents are unlikely to be comfortable talking about sex with their kids, a formal sex education programs has its merits. A Indianised version of the ‘abstinence’ program can be added on to satisfy those worried about sex education affecting Indian culture.
The truth however is that formal sex education has little or no impact on the decision to have sex. The external environment such as peer group interaction, media imagery and individual personality – sex drive, appetite for risk etc which responsible. And those are factors beyond the state’s control.
Yes, a value system or belief system can be influenced by what parents and elders say or do in the impressionable growing years. But as a young adult your child may accept or reject those values – that’s his or her choice.
In any case, the situation is not as ‘grim’ as our cultural warriors believe. The % of young people having sexual intercourse below the age of 18 appears to be relatively small.
A study of medical college students found sexual intercourse had been experienced by 11.8% of respondents. The mean age of first sexual intercourse was 17.5 years. Along similar lines, a National Institute of Health and Family Welfare study concluded that that premarital sex varies from 17% among schoolchildren to 33% among young workers in the typical north Indian population.
Among those who had sex, the average age for first sex estimated by the researchers was 17.4 years for boys and 18.2 for girls. 60% of respondents said that they had sex ‘rarely’.
The study was conducted among 1500 young people in the slums of Delhi and Lucknow. A rider: both these studies were conducted circa 2000-2001. Yes, the figures would definitely have gone up. Here’s a more direct indication:
In 1996, the Durex ‘global sex sex survey’ found that the average Indian male had sex for the first time at age 25. The same annual survey concluded in 2005 that Indians, on average lost their virginity at the age of 19.8.
Of course I would not take this at face value (academicians call it a ‘quick and dirty survey’ with a sample which does not represent the general population as it’s only online!).But some of the pop statistics do seem close to the truth.
Indians were the ‘oldest’ to lose their virginity – at age 19.8. We also had the fewest sexual partners n the world (just 3, vs a global average of 9).
So the culture brigade can feel ‘happy’ at our relative conservatism or alarmed (at our relative promiscuity, compared to previous generations). Either way, we can’t blame ‘more sex education’ for these behavourial trends.
Killing the education bit won’t reduce the propensity towards sex. But it just might end up killing safe-sex-ignorant young people.