Shhh..not here, the kids are listening!

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The largest democracy in the world is having problems, the most recurring is keeping half of its population safe. In the last few years India has been plagued with cases of gang rape, sexual assaults, molestation, child sexual abuse and other forms of sexual conflicts. While the cases are not first time occurrences, the exponential increase in these offenses is cause to worry. UNICEF reported that about 50% of the children have faced some form of sexual abuse. While this statistic is unsettling, the reality is most children and parents are in denial of the abuse and grow up accepting it as a way of life.

Experts say sex education and awareness is fundamental to battling this growing epidemic yet many government officials in India believe otherwise. Following the 2007 UNICEF study, the central government promoted a sex education program called the Adolescent Education Program, however this move was met by widespread opposition across the nation with 6 of the largest states ultimately banning sex education in their schools as it was against “ Indian Culture”. They propagated the ban claiming it would increase premarital sexual activity amongst youth and corrupt their values. This ban later spread to 12 states, nonetheless even the states where there is no ban, sex education is typically limited to elite private schools. In rural and lower income public schools where the need is greatest, education is is limited to descriptions of the human anatomy.

                                            ban_on_sex_education

Organizations such as the Family Planning Association of India have been leading efforts to overturn the ban but have only been instrumental in adding an addendum such as “Family Life Education” to some curriculums. To combat this issue effectively, to allow their women and children to be safe, the government of India needs a nationwide comprehensive sex education program for children and adolescents.

 

3 Responses to “Shhh..not here, the kids are listening!”

  1. ooneill2 Says:

    The numbers reported in this blog are staggering. In addition to the crimes against adolescents and emotional trauma, comes the unwanted pregnancies and STD infection not even discussed. The number of aids cases are also staggering. Adolescents have a higher likelihood of acquiring a STD then adults. 42% of adolescents are having sexual intercourse that is consensual, and many of those are under 13 years of age (3.9% of USA students). Add those to the Indian numbers and the amount of unprotected sexual relations are probably more staggering.

    The propagation, consumption and comprehension of information are of significant importance to tackling these problems (as is the Indian legal system). Educated adolescent peers make the best teachers to adolescents here in the United States. Sexual education does not necessarily require a “formal” course taught by adults. It can begin with health care givers during routine adolescent evaluations and through adolescent volunteers willing and able to be trained. They can then disseminate the information to their adolescent peers. The “adolescent time period is crucial and detrimental to the future of their sexual behavior” reported by Jennings et al. and Cederbaum, et al. in 2017. These are well accomplished in our country as Teen PEP programs and potentially could be instituted in India as well (Jennings, Howard, & Perotte, 2017, p. 326).

  2. pgandhi4 Says:

    The social and cultural stigmas around sex education have had longstanding consequences throughout the course of history in India. UNICEF reports that a fifth of the world’s adolescents live in India, exacerbating the ramifications of these stigmas (http://unicef.in/PressReleases/87/Adolescence-An-Age-of-Opportunity). A MediAngels survey (of 15,000 adolescents aged 13-19 across 20 cities in India) found that for major sources of information, only 6% of surveyed adolescents said mothers, while 4.15% said doctors.

    Given the dire need for increased provision of “family life education” (FLE), I believe the greatest opportunity for effecting immediate change is through independent actors, that are not affiliated with the government or national education system. Specifically, I believe that non-governmental organizations, private foundations, and independent advocacy organizations can play a major role given that families and adolescents in India are reported to believe it is easier/more comfortable to discuss FLE topics with independent actors. Many private schools that are providing some form of FLE, for example, use external consultants instead of teachers to discuss these topics. I saw the immediate impact of independent actors firsthand – in 2011, I worked with an American foundation in providing basic health services, including sex education, to adolescents in orphanages and remote schools in rural India. The adolescents asked me questions that related to the rights they have to their own bodies and about puberty, which many of them reported never having previously asked of anyone. Many groups are recognizing the potential for change through independent delivery of FLE, and have started to develop corresponding materials and trainings to be leveraged across India. The Thoughtshop Foundation is one such example. I do not believe that independent actors can provide the final solution, but they can help catalyze national discussion while providing necessary education to adolescents. A national solution will ultimately require the work and resources of the Indian government, as dshah113 mentioned.

  3. stephendsander Says:

    Dshah113, thank you for bringing attention to what has likely been a longstanding issue and for being a voice to what are likely voiceless victims.
    In reading your blog, a few questions come to mind. I would like to know and understand more about the study that shed light on the staggering numbers that you quoted to bring greater credibility to your case. The link was to a report describing the survey, but there were no details provided.
    I would also like to understand if there has been other solutions posed that may be more effective than public education, which may work in the US, but is clearly not socially acceptable, nor understood, in India.
    Again thank you for your blog and consider these comments for ways of enhancing your efforts.

    Steve Sander

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