In an interview to The New York Times, the Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that promoting the use of condoms ‘sends the wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you’re using a condom, it’s fine’ and that “The thrust of the AIDS campaign should not only be on the use of condoms.”
The history of Indian society and sex education basically consists of the former denying the latter to a large slice of the population. Uttering the sex word or anything related to it is a one way ticket to being called desperate, perverse, loose, slutty and many other such choice expletives that you can think of. The result? We have a plethora of sexual health related problems plaguing us, but we continue to blame it on westernization rather than lack of proper education and awareness of contraception and protection.
Introducing sex in a volatile society
India is a unique place where most children get their first insight into sexual intercourse through pornography in one form or the other. A place, where a friend not your father may be the one introducing you to this concept and where a girl may either remain ignorant for most part of her teenage because mothers don’t (or cannot) talk about sex or she may become aware at the price of being ostracised for indulging in such forbidden talks let alone actions.
The grave need for having quality education at the school level on sexual health, intercourse and related paradigms has been reiterated over and over again. But only a few schools provide this module whereas the majority remain adamant not to broach this topic perhaps because they don’t have the resources to do so or they simply don’t want to.
Sex education in schools has received a lot of criticism from ‘concerned groups’ who believe that a separate module on sex education may corrupt the minds of their children and should therefore be discouraged. This along with politicians who aren’t as open as they ought to be about giving children the right kind of education on such sensitive subjects, lead to convoluted information being disseminated, lack of proper knowledge on the dangers of unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV and AIDS.
It is imperative that sex education finds a place in our education system due to the many ill effects of an ignorant society. Parents need to play a proactive role in sensitising their child and explaining sex related information in a safe environment. this will definitely prove to be a step forward in chipping off at the prohibited nature of sex in our society. Here is a quick link to help you talk to your child about sex without making it seem like a taboo. God knows we need more dialogue on this subject from reliable sources.
AIDS & NACO
The National AIDS Control Organisation or NACO under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been charged with the responsibility of spreading awareness about AIDS, promoting use of condoms and other contraceptives and providing quality health care to HIV and AIDS patients in India. According to the report by NACO, the prevalence of AIDS in India in 2013 was 0.27, which has come down significantly from 0.41 in 2002. NACO’s effort in bringing health care and awareness mechanisms to our diverse populations has been monumental in keeping AIDS in check.
Practices like having multiple sexual partners, unprotected intercourse with sex workers and the growing LGBTQ community that is considered “unnatural” as well as illegal in India and looked down upon are contributing to the growth of STDs. Legalisation of homosexuality is a much needed step to remove to the taboo attached to it and aid them in preserving their sexual health as well.
The Condom Promotion Programme of NACO works as a primary HIV/AIDS prevention strategy by encouraging the use of condoms amongst our population. But the social situation is such that information about contraception and usage rights don’t reach a large number of rural women who are either ignorant or are prevented from using contraception making them vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy and a host of other problems like STDs. Therefore, social education is much needed in such times to improve contraception and condom use amongst married ad unmarried sexual partners.
Removing Cultural Taboos
This is of course a gargantuan task in a society like ours. Our Union Health Minister who said that promoting condoms sends out a ‘wrong message’ is not helping our cause because cultural lessons will take much longer to seep into our minds than the basic step of using protection. The key to improving sexual health and preventing STDs is simple. Do away with the cultural tangent and stop being judgemental.
I personally believe that 80% work will be done if our society stops looking at sex, condoms and contraceptive pills as a forbidden topic; because we all know it’s not. We simply love to attach drama to everything sex which has resulted in such a sexually deprived society that looks to porn for sex education and expects the man to last an hour and a woman to have a voluptuous body that can bend into all sorts of contorted positions. Isn’t this sending out a really wrong message about real sex? Who will tell the men and women that sex is not how it looks in porn movies always if we keep taking the focus away from sex education and keep making ridiculous arguments on abstention and Indian culture when we all KNOW that things never work like that? This
It is therefore important that people in positions as important as Dr. Harsh Vardhan realise these ground realities whether it aligns with his cultural sentiments or not and be more practical in their thoughts and policies. Because we all know who the cultural arguments applies to and it won’t be the young man who goes to a sex worker or has girlfriends in his sexual prime, but the woman who will be forced to preserve her ‘virginity’ till marriage because that’s what Indian culture as practised today lays significance on.
The debate that was sparked off by Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s comment show how the youth is not willing to take things lying down but expect the government to respect their freedom of choice and wish for the government to fulfil their duty of providing sex education and awareness and access to condoms because that’s the need of the hour. On a lighter note, some improvements are happening for erasing the stigmas related to sex and an example of this is the recent advertisement by Durex, created waves in the country because of it’s simple message; celebrate sex, safe sex.
Do you think we need a sexually liberated society or a sexually ignorant one?
About the Author
A patriot and hopeful change maker, Riddhima is a believer in the power of women to change the world. She has studied Political Science with special reference to the feminist movement, feminist theory and the position of women in Indian politics. She is currently pursuing Law and hopes to specialize in women related laws and work with an organization in a related field. She enjoys public speaking and is not afraid to speak her mind. Sharma is a quick learner and is keen to gain new experiences especially in the areas of public policy, politics and strategy