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National Education Policy 2016: Schools to finally impart regular sex education classes?

By Maitreyee Boruah
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Bengaluru, Aug 4: In the name of imparting sex education to adolescents, most schools in India conduct workshops on health and hygiene. The issue of imparting sex education on a regular basis to school-going children in India has always been a controversial subject.

Most of those who opposed the idea of having a proper sex education curriculum in schools say it would encourage promiscuous behaviour among children and this is against "Indian values". However, experts on children-related issues say that at a time when the country is witnessing increase in cases of sexual abuse of children and teen pregnancy, schools must have regular classes on sex education.

Sex education: Are schools ready for it?

Probably, the demand of those who advocate the importance of sex education is likely to be fulfilled soon. The draft of the National Education Policy 2016 made public on June on www.mygov.in website clearly mentions the significance of "sex education in schools for adolescent for safety measures".

"There is a lot of misconception surrounding sex education in schools. A lot of parents and even politicians have opposed the idea of teaching teenagers about safe sex methods and sexuality in general. This kind of medieval mindset is harming our children. Sex education helps inculcate essential information about conception, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases among the teenagers," Nagasimha Rao, Bengaluru-based child rights activist, told OneIndia.

"Right from parents and teachers in schools must tell children about safe and unsafe sexual practices. This will definitely help children save themselves from getting sexually abused," Rao added.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sex education should be imparted to children who are 12 years and above. WHO further states that the age group of 12 to 19 years counts for some 34 per cent of the HIV-infected persons in the world.

sex education

"It is irresponsible on the part of our school system to ignore the facts and figures cited by the WHO. Instead of children having to know about sex and its various aspects from unreliable sources, it is always better to provide them the right information by the right person. And it can happen only if parents and teachers openly talk about sex to their children," said Vasudev Sharma, executive director of Child Rights Trust (CRT), Bengaluru.

Moreover, a study by the Department of Women and Child Development shows that some 53 per cent of children in the country have been victims of some kind of sexual abuse.

According to a circular issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) back in 2005, it had chalked out an Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education (ARSH) project. However, experts say the project is yet to be implemented in totality.

Some of the key objectives of ARSH project are: to acquire information and education on sex and reproductive health, to help teenagers avoid vulnerability to risky behaviour, to enable children to resist sexual exploitation and violence, to understand the consequence of substance abuse and adopt preventive measures and to help youngsters to understand the seriousness of the epidemic HIV/AIDS, to name a few.

Because of the taboo associated with sex education, several states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Goa, had earlier banned a course on adolescent education programme as suggested by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

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