I remember how my colleagues reacted with utter disbelief when I told them the story of a 14-year-old I saw on a TV show who believed her friends when they told her she could get pregnant by kissing a guy. Obviously, they were messing with her.
Naive as she was, she consulted the Internet and took some pills which damaged her uterus permanently. My colleagues said the story was exaggerated. How can a 14-year-old not know this basic fact about sex?
It is because the importance of sex education in schools in India has not been realised. Without enlightening our children on the basics of sexual intercourse, how can we be surprised they do reckless things out of curiosity?
What Is The Importance Of Sex Education?
Forget 14-year-olds, I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard my 22-year-old friend say, “Can one get pregnant if someone has sex with them over clothes?”
Hard to believe, right? Well, it’s not exaggerated. My friend repeated the same question when she visited a gynaecologist for a check-up, much to the horror and disgust of the doctor. How can a 22-year-old with a degree in engineering not know anything about sex?
I remember how in school she used to keep herself absolutely away from guys. She viewed couples in school with disgust and would consciously try to keep herself away from girls who were linked with boys in class or the ones who actually had boyfriends.
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Many of my friends used to call her “a clean teen” or “sad virgin”. But none of us had the slightest idea that she was absolutely clueless and continued to be so even after she finished college.
She never had a boyfriend and said she’d have her parents pick a husband for her. She was the quintessential “good girl” as per societal standards. Even if you are abstaining from having sex doesn’t mean you can’t read about it and educate yourself.
What Is The Purpose Of Sex Education?
To educate children on this natural process through which you can bear a child. To let them know the use of protection, including condoms, if they plan on having sex for pleasure and not just for bearing children.
We can call them ‘bad people’ or ‘spoilt’ all we want, but the fact of the matter is that young boys and girls do have sex. The old tradition of saving yourself for marriage is now outdated and nobody follows it any longer.
The purpose of sex education is to be there for our children and help prevent them from make stupid mistakes that will affect their lives in the long run.
Could it have happened while she slept?
Two weeks ago, she began experiencing abdominal pain and lost her appetite. She’d feel dizzy and tired all the time. When the symptoms persisted, she Googled it and found, to her horror, that they matched the symptoms of pregnancy.
She was taken aback, as she had never slept with a guy. But, she did recall the time she had a sleepover at a friend’s place where she spent the night with other friends around. The thing was she did not remember what happened during the time she was asleep. That’s when the seeds of doubt were sowed in her.
A visit to the doctor made her even more fearful, as the doctor said her symptoms matched with those of early pregnancy. She didn’t know how this was possible, and she felt a sense of dread bubbling in her stomach.
She called her mother, told her everything about it and though she said she was not physically involved with anyone, she confessed she didn’t remember what happened at the sleepover once she slept. Her mother suspected the food or drinks were spiked there.
I got to know about this the day her reports came in. She had urinary tract infection and she was advised to drink plenty of water. I snapped at her when she told me she really did not know that sperms cannot be transferred to a female body except during intercourse.
I was absolutely horrified. And disappointed, how can anyone not know the basics of sexual intercourse as an adult?
At that moment, I thought it better not to ask her if she knew anything about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or about the high chances of conceiving within 7 days after her periods. I was way too disgusted and assumed she was acting that way to prove her innocence. Anybody would!
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The reality of sex education in India
None of us had our parents tell us about sex education. I was told about it by my elder sister a few years earlier during a conversation about marriage and motherhood. My parents never even brought the conversation up, and they avoided the topic like the plague.
I was also lucky to have attended a workshop in my college conducted by an NGO which spread awareness on sex education and safe contraceptives. Many of my friends were advised by their mothers to not attend “that kind of workshop”.
Lots of people believe that sex education will instigate young people to experiment and indulge in pre-marital sex. That’s far from the truth. Pre-marital sex and casual hook-ups are the order of the day. And no knowledge in such cases can be a dangerous thing!
And when youngsters resort to the internet to research more, they are labelled as ‘sex addicts’. If the importance of sex education was realized by schools in India, teenagers wouldn’t have to go to porn sites and watch videos that ‘are not meant for them.’
Why are we shy about sex?
What scares me the most is the sheer number of such girls all over the country who are told to wait for marriage before they know anything about sex. Somebody you know might be at the risk of abuse if s/he has limited knowledge of sex.
Having a sexual relationship with only one person limits your knowledge on what is okay and what is is not okay. You must familiarise yourself with the concept of consent before you begin having sexual relations with anyone.
I wonder, when did being “a good girl” mean being unaware and putting yourself at risk of being abused? Since when did culture and age-old traditions become more important than preventing non-consensual and rough sex?
When we can talk about malnutrition and mental health, why are we so shy to talk about sex? What kind of “tradition and culture” are we really talking about? And when are we going to grow out of keeping everything behind the curtains and actually start telling our kids about the real world?
The strategy worked so well for the previous generation that they apply the same to this Internet-savvy generation too. Too bad it doesn’t work anymore. Lack of understanding the importance of sex education in schools, contrary to popular opinion, puts one more at risk for abuse.