When it comes to sex education, opinions on what should be included are varied, especially on certain nuances such as gender and sexuality. However, it cannot be denied that it is an extremely important part of the lives of students. Sex education is the process of learning the emotional, physical, and social aspects of sex, sexuality, and gender – and can include information about the importance of consent, puberty and human development, reproductive health, and more. Learning about such things fills a considerable information gap, especially among teens; for example, being aware of safe-sex practices and contraceptives could reduce unwanted teen pregnancy, and knowing that different sexualities and genders exist could make students more open, supportive, and comfortable if they have a different identity, etc.
In terms of international policy, the United Nations Population Fund works with governments to implement comprehensive sexual education inside and outside schools. It makes it clear that sex education is ‘a precondition for exercising full bodily autonomy, which requires not only the right to make choices about one’s body but also the information to make these choices in a meaningful way.’ In other words, being informed about matters like safe sex, different sexualities, and genders allow people to make informed decisions about their bodies and creates a safe, aware space for exploration. A comprehensive education, according to the ‘ International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education,’ must be scientifically accurate, age and developmentally-appropriate, culturally relevant, and context-appropriate, in order for the learners to get the most use out of it.
For youth in India, there is a substantial gap between those who agree with the importance of sex education, and those who actually receive it, and a culturally sensitive curriculum is something that continues to be developed.
Sex education in Indian schools plays a crucial role in the way we view consent, and can have a massive impact on a culture that condemns sex and related topics. (TW). From 2001 to 2018, India’s rape-related crime rose by 70.7% according to a report by the Public Health Foundation of India. In 2019, it was reported that one child is sexually abused every day, and the under-reporting of such incidents is largely due to a lack of understanding about their bodies and consent. Sex education teaches young people about respecting consent and privacy when it comes to both their own bodies and the bodies of other people. It helps them understand their right over their own bodies and helps promote empathy for victims, rather than shaming, which is quite prominent in Indian culture.
Gender identity and sexuality is a major part of sex education. This is especially relevant in India, because talking about sexual orientation and gender identity is still fairly taboo. Such inclusive sex education could help create a more supportive environment for gender non-conforming young persons who are often marginalized within a heteropatriarchal culture. A study titled ‘Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behaviour’ showed that rather than increasing sexual activities which is the reason given by most schools not to provide it, comprehensive sexual education actually reduces sexual activity and increases safer sex. In addition, sex education can be done in a culturally sensitive way.
It is therefore essential for young people in schools to receive sex education, which would allow them to grow in a safe environment, understand boundaries and consent, and make informed decisions regarding sex. While a culture often steeped in stigma makes this a difficult topic to approach, a well-rounded sex education course delivered in an age and context appropriate way is not only necessary but is also a right for young people.
This blog post was written by our intern Nayantara Narayanan, a 12th grade student of Mallya Aditi International School.