Rising problems in the nation: Sex taboos and sexual health



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. It is a state of physical, physiological and social wellbeing of an individual. What is often ignored is the fact that although sex is a very natural act, there are certain risks in the act of coitus. Our country is highly devoid of sex education. Hence, the high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and other sexual health related problems in this country is not a surprise.

As many as 232 million youngsters between the ages of 15-24 are in the process of discovering their sexuality in the shadow of tremendous stigma. India has the largest population of adolescents with almost 50% of them living in urban areas. These figures indicate the importance of specifically addressing the healthcare needs of this segment that is gradually growing more and more sexually active. During this age, adolescents are at the peak of curiosity and they like to experiment and hence end up engaging in risky behaviours due to deficit of knowledge.  Hence, what is extremely essential in this situation is to have a clear perspective on issues related to sexual health, such as pregnancy, protection, conception, unsafe abortions, safe sex, contraceptives, HIV and sexual abuse. Yet what often seems to be lacking in this population is the accurate knowledge and awareness. The sexual health of the adolescents is currently overlooked or not understood by the Indian healthcare system because of prejudice attached to the act. Healthcare professionals often themselves lack the knowledge; they end up not noting down comprehensive histories of the clients and act as a ‘moral police’ because of the cultural and traditional beliefs in the society. This situation will lead to the youth indulging in the practice with incorrect information and will disrupt the sexual health of them in the longer run.

What stands to be a pervasive cultural challenge in the society is the fact that open discussion about sexual health is a taboo in the society and is hushed down almost all the times. Sex education at school level has attracted strong objections and apprehensions from all segments of the society. Legislators argue that such education would corrupt ‘Indian values’ leading to experimentation, promiscuity and irresponsible behaviour. The thing is that even if it is not discussed in an institutionalized manner, the sex talks will be prevalent among the adolescents. Yet, because of the deficit of accurate facts, they will have incorrect and incomplete information. This will lead them to make rash and improper decisions which could potentially harm them. Astonishingly, sex education is banned in several Indian states!

Because of such ignorance, rises a multitude of such issues in the country. For instance, gender issues. The rise of sexual violence against women is rising more than ever. Cases of rapes and sexual abuse have become widely prevalent in the country. Women are sexualized beyond imagination, causing them to be more unsafe and vulnerable in this age. Yet, what should not be ignored is that males also experience sexual violence. Also, HIV is another issue which arises because of the lack of knowledge. Adolescents in the age group of 15-24 years contribute to a disproportional of 31% of AIDS in the country. This can arise because of unsafe sex and unawareness of its consequences.

To demonstrate the gravity of this issue, nothing would be better than a real life example. A recent incident which was quite hushed in the student circles is the case of a young girl in her early twenties. She had indulged in sexual activity with her boyfriend. Because of lack of information, she indulged in the act without hard and fast knowledge of protection. A day after having sex, she experienced uneasiness in her genitals and went to a gynaecologist to get treatment. The doctor asked if she was married or not. When she replied no, the doctor threatened her of being a victim of a long-term STD and refused to give her proper treatment outright. Scared out of her wits, she rushed to her friend’s mother who took her to another gynaecologist who was thankfully more open-minded and helped her treat the minor infection. This is an example of a very minuscule issue. Lack of knowledge has resulted in issues of larger magnitude such as teenage pregnancies, spreading of AIDs and other STDs sexual abuse.

What the people of this country need to understand is that not gaining sexual education would not make the youth refrain from indulging in sexual activity. On the contrary, not having the proper knowledge would make them more vulnerable and susceptible to bad sexual health, which is in turn a problem for the whole country. Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is strength and such knowledge should be inculcated in the new generations from a very early age.

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