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Breaking Taboos, Building Understanding: The Need for Open Sex Education in Schools

Children should be aware that if the touch is bad, they've to inform someone about it. They should be empowered to say NO, if it feels uncomfortable in any way.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sex education as a structured process of imparting knowledge and skills relevant to sex, sexuality, and relationships, through age-appropriate, culturally relevant, and scientifically accurate information.

About 85% of 155 countries have policies on sexual education, with more focusing on secondary education than primary. In 2007, it was added to the curriculum by the National Council for Education, Research and Training, but not as a separate subject. However, it was later removed in certain states. The current structure of national programmes in India includes FLE (family life/sex education), which aims to develop emotional stability, decision-making power, and provide knowledge about sexual behaviour. However, this curriculum does not cover few important issues like sexual anatomy, physiology reproductive health issues and disease prevention.

Imagine being a teenage girl or boy, unable to make sense of what they are going through, teenagers tend to seek help. And when there’s no elderly guidance, they turn towards internet, where everything can be found within a click. This might lead them to stumble upon explicit, age-inappropriate content which may have an impact on their minds. There could also be harmful predators online that try to get a hold of these young confused minds. Sex-ed teaches about:

  • Good touch and bad touch: Studies have shown that 150 million female children and 73 million male children worldwide are subjected to sexual abuse. They should be aware that if the touch is bad, they've to inform someone about it. They should be empowered to say NO, if it feels uncomfortable in any way.

  • STI prevention: Sexually transmitted infections like Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea are occurring in high number among teenagers. Over half of all new HIV infections are among young people aged 15-24. If students are aware of the risks of STI and how to prevent them, then it leads to a healthier and safer life.

  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancies: Learning about contraceptive methods and practicing safe sex can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies.

  • Gender and Sexual Diversity: Sex education that is inclusive and affirming of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations promotes understanding and acceptance. It helps combat discrimination and create a more inclusive society.

  • Healthy Body Image: In a survey conducted by Be Real in the UK, among people aged from 13-19, 35% said that their body image causes them to often or always worry. Sex education can address issues related to body image, self-esteem, and societal pressures. This can lead to healthier attitudes towards one's body and reduce the risk of body-related mental health issues.

While schools perform an otherwise excellent job at training students to be at par with their global peers, we are yet to get over the notion that sex-ed will end up distracting students and plant wrong ideas into their heads. Schools can better implement age-appropriate sex education by:

  • Using health content that is medically accurate and developmentally appropriate

  • Involving parents and guardians to create a safe space for learning

  • Including information regarding the efficacy of contraceptives in preventing STIs and unintended pregnancy

  • Differentiating lessons according to age groups

  • Educating about LGBTQ+ community

Overcoming the taboo nature of sex education requires a gradual shift in societal attitudes and a recognition of the importance of open, informed discussions. By building our understanding on this fundamental truth, we can pave the way for healthier, more informed lives and relationships.

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