What is sex education ?
Sex education is defined as a broad program that aims to build a strong foundation for lifelong sexual health by acquiring information and attitudes, beliefs and values about one’s identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health is considered to be a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity as defined by the WHO.
Psychological and sociocultural influences in the delivery of this education can increase the likelihood of effectiveness. Primarily, during adolescence (10–19 years) its provision is a crucial preventative tool, as it is the opportune time when young people experience developmental changes in their physiology and behavior as they enter adulthood.
The complex emotional state in which youth find themselves in, stigma surrounding matters of a sexual nature in the Indian society and widespread gender inequality faced makes it increasingly challenging for adolescents to attain the knowledge they need. Through what is termed “family life education” (FLE), we can hope to teach the roles and responsibilities of males and females toward each other in all relationships in familial and social contexts, thus endowing the knowledge necessary to maintain sexual health as they navigate through the vulnerabilities of life.
However, the existence of strong stigma and controversy handicaps any existing adolescent health programs, with them being incomprehensive and failing to fully address the main health issues adolescents are vulnerable to. These include several negative sexual and reproductive
 Geneva: WHO; 2006. WHO. Defining sexual health.  Geneva: WHO; 2011. WHO. The sexual and reproductive health of younger adolescents research issues in developing countries: Background paper for a consultation.  Geneva: WHO; 2011. WHO. The sexual and reproductive health of younger adolescents research issues in developing countries: Background paper for a consultation
health outcomes, such as early and closely spaced pregnancy, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infection (STI), HIV/AIDS, and sexual violence, the rates of which are already increasing at a disturbing rate.
Why sex education a taboo?
About 70% of Indian population is illiterate. Illiteracy is the key reason for sex education to be a taboo in India .
Seventy percent of the population doesn’t even know what sex education is , they are not aware, according to their ideology the work of man is to earn money and the work of women is to bear child and do the households.
For them sex education is like an elephant in the room, they belive that talking about sex education will bring disgrace to them .
The strongest and most common argument against sexuality education is that it goes against Indian culture and values. Although India has a rich history of celebrating pleasure and sexuality, even talking about sex has been taboo here. Especially when it comes to children, conversations about sex and sexuality are considered to be too ‘adult’ for their understanding. This means that talking about everything from sexual intercourse, sexual organs, breasts, menstruation, gender identity, feelings of attraction for another person, child sexual abuse, self-exploration are all off limits.
 . Geneva: WHO; 2010. World Health Organization. Measuring sexual health: Conceptual and practical considerations.
Most public and private schools in India do not provide any kind of sexuality education. The few schools that do , focus on health and hygiene in those classes. A study shows that a majority of Indian parents also do not discuss sexuality with their children. This is because the family’s conservative social fabric does not allow for an open space wherein conversations about issues related to sexuality can be initiated. And since the adults did not receive sexuality education themselves, and do not have a culture of discussing their own sexuality issues with others, they fail to see the need for formal comprehensive sexuality education. There is also a common concern that these ‘unnecessary’ talks will disrupt the social order or affect family values and culture that has been held strongly for all these years.
This cultural resistance does not emerge only from parents and teachers. Often the students themselves are uncomfortable having these conversations in public, as shown by this study, because adults have never discussed these topics with them or shushed these conversations.
ENCOURAGING SEXUAL ACTIVITY
Another common criticism of sexual education is that it teaches youngsters how to have sex, thus allowing and even encouraging them to engage in sexual activity. But a study conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) shows that sexuality education actually delays the start of sexual activity, and encourages safe sex practices.
But the belief that talking about sex, leads to promiscuity and irresponsible sexual behavior still exists. This is further strengthened by India’s paranoia against premarital sex. Since Indian culture places the honor of families, communities, and often the entire nation on women’s sexuality and their virginity, premarital sex is a huge taboo. The underlying fear is a loss of control on women’s sexuality. While it is okay for men to engage in sexual activity (‘boys will be boys’), women are expected to remain sexually inactive and positively clueless about sex until marriage, and suddenly embrace sex as a part of their marital lives.
Additionally, not giving sexuality education does not stop youngsters from knowing about sex, or exploring their own sexuality. They are exposed to sex from an early age through films, books, video games, music and the internet. And yet, a study found that 42-52% of youth feel that they do not have adequate knowledge about sex.
CONSEQUENCES OF LACK OF SEXUAL EDUCATION
Many young people in India do not have access to adequate information about their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) because of a strong social and cultural taboo around the issue which causes a pervasive silence. As a result, most adolescents enter into marriage and pregnancy.
Evidence suggests that approximately 30% of all women aged 20-24 years are married before they attain legal age without any adequate preparation.
The 2011 Indian census estimated that 17 million children in the age group of 10-19 years are married.
Prevalence of sexual abuse, violence, and physical abuse are increasing among the adolescence and are increasingly co-occurring with substance abuse. A study on child abuse in India, conducted by the National Crime Record Bureau, as many as 109 children were sexually abused every day in the year 2018. The year also saw an increase in the number of cases registered under POCSO (Protection of Children From Sexual Offences) Act. The report titled Crime in India
Sexual rights initiative  . Jha J. Reducing child marriage in India: a model to scale up results. New Delhi: Centre for Budget and Policy Studies. UNICEF; www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Centre-for-Budget-and-Policy-Studies-India-report.pdf. Published 2016. Accessed October 25, 2018.  Jha J. Reducing child marriage in India: a model to scale up results. New Delhi: Centre for Budget and Policy Studies. UNICEF; www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Centre-for-Budget-and-Policy-Studies-India-report.pdf. Published 2016. Accessed October 25, 2018.
2018 says that 32,608 cases were reported in 2017 under the POCSO Act, while 39,827 cases were reported in 2018.
Therefore, parents, guardians and teachers might help the vulnerable young population to be aware about their sexual rights and empower them to protect themselves from any undesired act of violence, sexual abuse, and molestation. The nongovernmental organization (NGO), Nari Raksha Samiti, had submitted that sexuality education in school curricula could play a role in addressing the rise of rape cases in India.
Adolescents find themselves at a vulnerable stage of their lives where influences of peer pressure can be conducive to socially unacceptable and perhaps even criminal group behavior. The rapidly emerging rape culture among youth needs to be addressed and stopped at the earliest possible instance. This requires concentrated efforts not only from institutions and organizations, but also from individuals as members of that society, as sexual offenders often have mental health and psychosocial risk factors that incite, maintain, and perpetuate the offence. This can be achieved through education about sex and drugs and teaching the use of ethical and moral principles to govern their actions, in order to discourage ambiguity and the development of careless, unhealthy, and potentially dangerous attitudes.
BY SAMAN RAHMAN
FACULTY OF LAW, LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY