Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in India

A thread to discuss CSE in India.

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What is CSE in India like?

Sexuality Education in India is limited to a biology chapter called Reproduction in class 9th-10th for adolescents (which often gets skipped by teachers), family planning for women in rural areas; and spreading awareness regarding HIV/AIDS. It’s even banned in a few states.

Many non-profit organizations are educating young people on topics such as menstruation, gender, safe-unsafe touch, abuse, etc. However, we still lack a structured, rights-based and sex-positive curriculum that schools, parents and adults can use to impart education to kids.

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What is missing from CSE in India? What does a rights based and sex positive curriculum entail?

The most common approach towards CSE in India is fear and shame-based. Teachers and adults use scare-tactics to discourage adolescents from engaging in sexual behavior, such as focusing only on STIs, showing extreme abortion videos, etc. What is missing is honest, medically-accurate and age-appropriate conversations about bodies, relationships and sex.

Students and young people need to have necessary information and skills to make informed decisions about their own bodies and lives. It’s easier to answer their questions now rather than solving their problems later.

Sex-positive curriculum helps students develop a healthy understanding of their own sexuality and equips them with information and resources to make decisions without any judgment or shame based on their gender, age, marital status, etc.

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What happens when young people don’t receive adequate CSE?

It’s so scary that some states have banned Sex ed!

If we look at some of the Indian statistics -

  1. India has a population of 1.3 Billion.
  2. Only 5.6% of the people use condoms.
  3. India was named the most dangerous country for women.
  4. India has the 3rd highest HIV epidemic in the world.
  5. 3 out of 4 girls still remain unaware of the process when they begin menstruating.
  6. Out of the total 48 million pregnancies, about half are unintended.
  7. In India, every second child is a victim of sexual abuse.
    …and the list is never-ending.

It’s a wide-spread misconception that CSE encourages young people to engage in sexual behavior. However, the studies show otherwise. The students who receive adequate CSE not only show delayed sexual activity, they also develop positive attitude towards sex, gender and sexuality; possess necessary information regarding contraception, abortion, safety, etc; and have skills to make informed decisions regarding both oneself and the partner.

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these statistics are really sad, but it’s good to know that CSE could make a difference. It’s so important to bust these myths!

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Why is there so much resistance towards CSE in India? Why has it been banned in some states?

It’s also ironical, because India is the 5th most sexually active country in the world. Yet, we don’t talk about sex.

One of the major reasons for banning sex-ed is because people think it’s only about sex. Sex-ed is the short form for “Sexuality Education” which is way different from “Sex-education.”

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Interesting! Since its not just about sex, at what age do you believe CSE should start and what topics should it cover?

It’s the misconceptions people hold about CSE. As soon as they hear the word sex, they get apprehensive. Once adults are made aware of the topics that are covered under CSE (such as bodily autonomy, puberty, sexuality, online safety, peer-pressure, menstruation, gender roles and norms, abuse and safety, etc.), their reactions and responses change dramatically.

Another major reason is the fact that we still don’t have formal “age-appropriate” curriculum for children. To avoid giving too much information to kids, it’s easier for them to not talk about it at all.

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CSE should start from the age of 3-4 years. The topics are covered age-group wise. For ex, children belonging to the age-group of 4-8 years are taught about naming the body parts correctly (no nicknames for genitals), the concept of safe-unsafe touch, relationships with family and friends, gender roles, etc.

Concepts such as bullying, peer-pressure, safety, seeking help are covered for the age-group of 8-12 years. In the next 4 years, they learn about puberty, gender, peer-pressure, menstruation, abuse, pregnancy and more. Similarly, based on their learning and understanding capacity, different concepts are introduced.

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Very interesting! What would you tell teachers/parents who want to engage in CSE but don’t know where to begin?

Firstly, I would suggest teachers and parent to learn about CSE themselves and get rid of the pre-conceived notions about it, if they have any.

Secondly, there are numerous resources such as, Sex-positive Families, etc. that provide age-appropriate, and accurate information on various topics, that they can use to teach their kids about different concepts.

Last and most important, it’s essential for them to be honest with the kids to develop a healthy bond with them. Don’t provide inaccurate information if it’s awkward to address their questions. Be honest. Get comfortable.

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This brief aims to provide an overview on the status of the implementation of CSE within Asia, drawing specifically to 11 countries from South, South East and Central Asia. It further analyses the current laws and policies on the status of CSE while presenting the gaps, challenges and barriers on its implementation

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