India needs comprehensive sexuality education

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    India needs comprehensive sexuality education

    Syllabus: GS1/Population & Associated Issues; GS2/Government Policies & Interventions

    In News

    • Understanding sexual consent is important not only to learn about violation and abuse, but also to maintain healthy relationships.

    Younger population & issue of Sexual Offence

    • India’s younger population:
      • In India, every fifth person is between the ages of 10 and 19 & has the greatest proportion of adolescents in the world (approximately 253 million), according to UNICEF.
    • Cases of Sexual Offence of Children:
      • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 51,863 cases were reported under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2021; of them, 33,348 or 64% were of sexual assault.

    Challenges

    • Data on sex education:
      • The research has found that more than 90% of students think sex education in school curriculum is important. 60% also stated that they had exposure to sex education in school. 
      • However, only 45% said that they had received appropriate sex education.
    • Ill approach of State governments:
      • Several State governments and certain sections of society in India have adopted an ostrich-like approach to comprehensive sexuality education. 
      • The governments that it sexualises children, they have either watered down the existing programmes or withdrawn them on the grounds that they violate “Indian values”. 
    • Patriarchal mindset:
      • Traditional values are often shaped by patriarchal and hierarchical social structures. Mass media often propagates such values. 
      • All this negatively affects young adults of all genders.
    • No education to Teachers:
      • Teachers reported that they lacked the knowledge to talk about diverse topics with the existing programmes.
    • Women & sexual awareness:
      • The victims of poor sexual awareness are primarily women. It is women who suffer most because of social taboo, menstrual issues, or unwarranted pregnancies.
      • Women also have lower awareness and knowledge around contraception, sex, pregnancy, and reproductive health. 
      • They also had little control over their sexual lives and decision making. 

    Significance of sex education:

    • Early awareness:
      • The UN global guidance recommends starting comprehensive sexuality education from the age of five along with formal education. 
      • This means that young children will be taught about their bodies, emotions, the basic principles of consent, and how to deal with violence, bullying or abuse. 
    • Rights and sexuality:
      • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), with comprehensive sexuality education, young people will be better informed of their rights and sexuality, and will be more likely to engage in sexual activity later. 
    • Sex & health:
      • Studies have shown that sexually aware students are most likely to say no to unprotected sex. 
      • Through sex education, teenagers can be taught the positive and negative sides of sex. They can learn about sexually transmitted disease, teenage unintended pregnancy, and emotional effects of sex.
    • Sexual consent:
      • Understanding sexual consent is important not only to learn about violation and abuse, but also to maintain healthy relationships.
    • Reducing the intimate partner violence:
      • The ramifications of a comprehensive sexuality education are far-reaching, especially in the matter of intimate partner violence.
    • Educating women on sex:
      • When women are educated and aware of sexual wellness, they make better reproductive decisions. This means lesser teenage pregnancies, child mortality, or sexually transmitted infections. 

    Suggestions

    • United Nations (UN) recommendations:
      • An effective approach would be comprehensive sexuality education, which, according to the United Nations (UN), is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality.
    • State’s role:
      • In India, the responsibility of sexuality education is vested with the State governments. 
      • Each State has the freedom to develop creative curriculums within the framework suggested by the UNFPA. 
    • Comprehensive sexuality education by schools:
      • NCRB data show that it is necessary for schools to impart comprehensive sexuality education not only to children, but also to parents and caregivers.
    • Capacity-building of teachers:
      • The UNESCO 2021 Global Status Report on ‘the journey towards comprehensive sexuality education’ says that capacity-building of teachers is critical as the curriculum requires non-intuitive participatory pedagogies. 
    • For parents:
      • The sex education advice for parents is that they educate themselves first. They should also let go of their inhibitions and reservations.
    • Regional languages to discuss the concept of sexual consent:
      • While the concept of sexual consent is evolving through criminal jurisprudence, the term itself may have been borrowed from English or other Western languages. 
      • With the non-English language speaking population becoming substantial, an explicit creation of vocabulary in regional languages to discuss the concept of sexual consent and its nuances is urgently required.

    Way ahead

    • Age of consent:
      • In the context of POCSO cases, the Madras, Delhi, and Meghalaya High Courts along with the Chief Justice of India have highlighted the frequent criminalisation of consensual adolescent relationships and have asked the government to consider reducing the age of consent. 
    • Sex Education:
      • UNESCO has highlighted a government-NGO case study from Jharkhand, where a school-based programme, Udaan, which began as an Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health programme led by the State AIDS Control was Society, got mainstreamed into the Education Department, as a model of commitment to scale up comprehensive sexuality education.
      • The State Council of Educational Research and Training informed the Kerala High Court that awareness about POCSO would be included in the curriculum from 2024-25
        • With the relationship between sexual health and human rights being complex, non-linear and interrelated, it is hoped that the curriculum is holistic and not simply related to legalities.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is the objective and significance of sex education in India? What is the effective approach for comprehensive sexuality education?