It’s high time our government got its act together in sex education

For a country with such a massive population and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV on the rise, it’s high time our government got its act together in sex education. The Human Resource Development ministry forced an expert panel to shorten its recommendations on sex education to just one sentence, to avoid use of words ‘sex’ and sexual’ in the document. Our sex education program is in trouble and this moralizing could cause irreversible long term damage to our society. The HRD ministry should find out how other countries with cultures that are relatively conservative impart sex education and replicate that here, with some customization.

As it stands now, a lot of schools and even colleges keep boys and girls segregated, even dictating what they may wear or not. Doing that for twelve years and then suddenly imparting sex education to the teens is hardly a way to tackle this. The end result is that we are turning out socially awkward and inept teens. The worst case scenario is that a lack of interaction mystifies the opposite gender leading to stalking and sexual assaults. Some believe Bollywood can influence change and many films are projected as ‘progressive’ but a lot of mainstream films focus more on sexual liberation and promiscuity rather than sexual responsibility. These days many female characters in Bollywood films wear their promiscuity on their sleeve with pride in an effort to ‘break the stereotype’ when in reality, having had multiple partners for anyone should be a reason for neither pride nor shame. Sexual responsibility needs to be focussed upon in sex education programs including consent, one’s own and that of others. This can only be effective if it is done in a holistic manner. Right now there is a strong rhetoric of consent but without a lot else the effectiveness of this rhetoric will be limited. There needs to be a demystification of the genders and society must enable them to interact without the burden of morality.

There also needs to be an effort, through sex education to demolish the perception of sex as a zero sum game where the man gains something and the woman loses something. This is a very wrong, unfair and warped perception of something so beautiful. This will also hopefully gradually do away with the guilt and shame that many people, especially women and seniors, associate with sex. It is perfectly fine to experience sexual desire whatever your age or gender. It’s one of the signs you’re still young and alive! It will make for better, more fulfilling lives when this happens. Even our laws of consent go against this, as of now.

Another aspect of guilt is that somehow in our society people in their sixties or older feel embarrassed to own their sexual desires. All these teenagers, if they eat their broccoli and carrots and are lucky will be sixty someday. This cycle of feeling guilty about sex as you grow older needs to stop. I see this propagated in Bollywood today. When I watched the remake of ‘Shaukeen’, I couldn’t help comparing it to the original which was a wonderful comedy about three loveable old men. I was disappointed that the remake had turned it into a comedy about three sleaze-bags. As a filmmaker myself, I realize that Basu Chatterji being the sensitive filmmaker he is would approach his film without being harsh in his judgement about three old men looking for a fling while someone else might see it as wrong and slot them as ‘dirty old men’ looking to get laid, doing whatever it takes, ruining the premise entirely. This also needs to change and sex education to teenagers can sow the seeds of change. Finally, some believe that with porn on the internet easily available, sex education is redundant. This is absurd because porn websites won’t address the important issues of safe sex, consent and social interaction. For what it is worth, porn has always been easily available. The mediums have changed, from magazines to video tapes and DVDs to the internet. We need teenagers to get educated about sex, just not the way they are being currently.

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