06/11/2019 The Hindu Editorials Notes: Mains Sure Shot


NOTE: Today there is one more article on economy. It has already been discussed. Refer to the editorials of 1st and 7th October, 16th and 24th September and 9th August.

Question – What is sex education? What are the stigmas associated with it and what is the need to break them?(250 words)

Context – In a recent judgment, the Madras High Court ruled that courts should not be influenced by misconceptions that children are likely to lie in cases of sexual abuse or that they are tutored by parents to make false statements in court.

What is sex education?

  • Sex education is high quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.
  • Sex education is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behavior. This meaning is not absolute one  as different countries used varied curriculum in sex education.
  • Sex education may take place in schools, in community settings, or online.
  • Parents play a critical and central role in providing sex education. But this is highly absent in India and is also considered bad or taboo.

The urgent need for sex education:

  • Almost half of the young people in India do not know how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. Ignorance takes its toll – 26% of the Indians are infected with HIV/AIDS.
  • Over 50% of the girls surveyed in rural India and 6.7% of the girls in urban India were unaware of the meaning of menstruation.
  • A very low percentage of girls in both groups were aware of the importance and the reasons behind the menstrual cycle, correct marriage age, safe sex, use of contraceptives, and knowledge about family planning, or health issues, such as anaemia, unsafe abortions, miscarriage, and sexual exploitation.
  • It is estimated that almost one-third of the girls in rural India drop out of school due to taboos and myths surrounding menstruation.
  • When children grow up, they need to learn and adapt to the physiological and psychological changes in different stages of development. The learning objectives of sex education vary with the age of children and the environment. They need appropriate and continuous counselling and guidance.
  • It is seen that children who report of sexual abuse, do so at least a few weeks later than the incident has happened. This delay results in loss of forensic evidence. With being educated they can report early and easy to punish the abuser.

Objectives of sex education:

  • The objectives of sex education are to help children understand the body structures of men and women and acquire the knowledge about birth.
  • It teaches children to establish and accept the role and responsibility of their own gender by acquiring the knowledge of sex. Understanding the differences and similarities between the two genders in terms of body and mind will set up a foundation for the future development in their acquaintance with friends and lovers and their interpersonal relationships.
  • Sex education is a kind of holistic education. It teaches an individual about self-acceptance and the attitude and skills of interpersonal relationship. It also helps an individual to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards others as well as oneself.

What prevents schools from introducing compulsory sex education in India?

  • It is the misconceptions that are associated with sex education that is the prime reason and this needs to be broken as they do more harm than good to the children.
  • It is the parents who are the first to protest for reasons like sex education is onscene and teaches children how to have sex at an early age.
  • If we ban sex education, our children will never find out about it, and this will solve all our problems.
  • Sex education is only needed in the West, where they have all these silly problems like teen pregnancy and child abuse. We in India, with all our moral values, culture, and traditions don’t need it.
  • Sex is an adult topic. Adults learn about it on their own after marriage. Very young children should not be corrupted with sex education.
  • Teaching children about sex will only cause them to have more sex. Sex education is the reason behind teen pregnancy.
  • Teaching about homosexuality will make my child a homosexual. This is morally wrong and against nature.
  • Men don’t get pregnant. Men don’t get raped. Men don’t need sex education. Sex education is for girls only.
  • There is no medical benefit of sex education.

Breaking the misconceptions:

  • Sex education does not teach how to have sex rather it teaches them about the physiological, social, and biological aspects of leading a healthy sexual life in the future. It also makes them aware about gender identity, physical changes, consent, awareness about sexual abuse, birth control measures, and prevention of AIDS and STDs.
  • Children are naturally curious about sex – Denying them the correct, scientific information leads them to seek knowledge from other sources, the children usually take to the internet or other friends and close relatives and seniors to know about it, who can also take advantage of their ignorance.
  • The idea that morals, values and culture are enough to prevent problems related to sexual illiteracy among children like teenage pregnancy are not true – India has the highest rate of population growth in the world; one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS infection; and a shockingly high rate of sexual abuse amongst children and adults – men and women. The leading cause: reluctance to educate our youth about their bodies, their urges, and the meaning and importance of safe sexual practices. Moral values are not contraceptives; our culture does not prevent rape, our traditions do not educate the youth about  health issues, and the consequences of early pregnancy.
  • Sex is not just an adult topic – In India, a shocking 53% of children between the ages of 5 and 12 have been subjected to sexual abuse. 53 percent. That’s more than half. The culture of silence and shame surrounding sexual issues means that the victims cannot speak up, often, they don’t even know that they are being abused.
  • Teenage pregnancy is not an alien western thing as a result of sex education – India’s rate of teenage pregnancy, 62 teens out of every 1000 pregnant women, is almost double that of the US, 3 times that of the UK, and 10 times higher than Western Europe. Together with the other countries in South Asia and the Middle East, it is amongst the highest in the world. Why? 18% of the girls in India are married before the age of 15 and 47% before the age of 18. Teenage pregnancy is NOT a western import; it is a deeply ingrained problem in our society, resulting from out-dated practices, and perpetuated by a complete lack of awareness of the bodily functions, sexual choices, birth control, and contraceptive measures.
  • Sex education does not lead to homosexuality – homosexuality is normal and innate; it cannot be cured or prevented. Teaching your child about gender and sexuality issues will help them come to terms with it and accept both themselves and others for who they are.
  • Sex education is for women alone – this is wrong because ou of the surveyed children who reported experiencing severe sexual abuse , including rape or sodomy, 57.3% were boys and 42.7% were girls. Approximately 18% of the Indian adult men surveyed, reported being coerced or forced to have sex. 61% of the HIV/AIDS sufferers in India are men. Sex education is for everyone.

Present shortcomings in the legal system:

  1. Issues in Cross examination by defence lawyer :- Defence questions are hostile, often sexually explicit, and structured to imply that lack of resistance means consent.  Further, guideline given in Sakshi v. Union of India is not established practice and happens only when cross examination gets unacceptably offensive and objectionable. 
  2. Poor understanding of victim child :- Compounding the problem is the fact that child witnesses don’t understand the confusing questions of defence counsel. This makes them vulnerable and they end up giving vague answers.
  3. Delay in disclosure :- Children typically delay disclosure of abuse (one third of them wait at least a year), chances are that medical evidence may go undetected or get lost, thus hampering their chances of securing justice. Delayed disclosure also makes it difficult for child witnesses to recall specific details of the abuse, which makes it easier for the defence to disprove allegations.

Way forward:

  1. Half-baked, incorrect information can be dangerous. Sex education is the need of the hour which will enable children to make the right choices and live safer, happier and healthier lives instead of being unaware and exploited.
  2. There is a need to increase the awareness of the legal system about child-sensitive communication.
  3. A vulnerability survey among students in city schools to identify the problems faced by children, starting from abuse to blue films, drugs and other anti-social activities.
  4. Educating parents and teachers to enable them to communicate with children rightly. 
  5. Students should start getting some information about such topics by the time they are in Class VI and VII. This will ensure that they do not enter into physical relationships without any idea of its repercussions, or get exploited by someone, or hooked on to pornographic content that is far removed from reality of real relationships.

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