Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) is a curriculum based method of teaching and learning about emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality and is required to be incorporated from an early age. Young people usually stay in dilemma about relationships and sex as they transition from childhood to adulthood, this has lead to an increasing demand of reliable information about the topics to help them make informed decisions in a world filled with gender based violence, STI’s , unintended pregnancies and an ensemble of other issues.
We can divide the main aspects CSE into three broad categories,
- Emphasis on human rights values of all individuals, including gender equality, sexual diversity, and differences in sexual development.
- Importance of consent, healthy relationships, contraception.
- Discussion of the benefits and pitfalls of Internet misinformation.
In India, public discussions around sex is still considered taboo, therefore this acts a barrier to delivery of adequate and effective sexual education to Indian adolescents. Sex education at school level has strong demurrer and apprehension from all areas of the society. In 2014, India’s Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, declared that he wanted to ban sex education and instead declared yoga to be compulsary.
In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 22-hour programme, for which schools will be asked to set aside one period each week which taught about self-identity, self-esteem, sex drive, and information on HIV and substance abuse. But the NEP was yet to announce the inclusion and this creates a loophole and the lack of CSE programs eventually remains at the same position as before.
Expertise from healthcare professionals along with patience and time will be required in order to bring about a gradual change in the existing conservative attitudes. With studies showing that the majority of parents do not accept the responsibility for providing sex education, 88% male and 58% female students in Mumbai said that they had received no sex education from parents and they resorted to gaining information from books, magazines and the Internet. 28.7 percent of women in India give birth to their first child before the age of 15. Yet reproductive health is only discussed behind closed doors.
Now, even though things like contraception and family planning are incorporated in syllabuses across India and other South Asian countries where talk around sex is not normalized, there is an underlying implication that contraception should only be used by married couples. The general concept of sex before marriage is seen as obscene which perpetuates the idea of self worth inextricably linked to virginity.This further adds on to the fact that the presence of such education is of little to no impact because of the extreme lack in quality that is provided to students.
Therefore, to overcome such social barriers to comprehensive sex education, it is necessary to not view sex as just a biological process, but also as an emotional and personal need.
As of now, most of sex education in Asian countries is focused on the biological aspects of sex, and teaches about the contraceptive methods, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV. This can be attributed to the fact that Asia has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Data collected from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam showed that none of the CSE programmes in these countries focuses on the sex as gratifying or indulgent, while only Sri Lanka includes sexual diversity in its programme but fails to discuss sexual and reproductive rights that the most of the countries do. Philippines inculcates gender identity and awareness in its curriculum while none of the aforementioned nations do so - their focus remains on the physical and biological nature of sex. Of these countries, only the Southeast Asian countries - Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Philippines and Vietnam focus on relationships.
However, in countries where most children forgo their basic human right to education, implementation of sex education is Herculean task.
This article is a part of the collaborative series between The Paradigm and VexEd. VexEd is an initiative to provide comprehensive, holistic and inclusive sex education through module-based workshops. We aim to create a safe space for conversations around taboo topics that most educational institutions do not address. Click here to know more about VexEd