ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Adolescent Well-Being: Morality of Sex Education

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti’s (SBAS) vicious diatribe against sex education for adolescents in Indian schools could simply be dismissed out-of-hand if not for the veiled threats that have been held out. At a recent “convention” organised by the SBAS in New Delhi, former union human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi is reported to have declared the intention of the Sangh parivar to take measures against “erring” teachers and principals: “Agar sex education bandh nahi kiya, to na tum rahoge, nahin tumara school” (“If you don’t stop sex education, neither will you remain in your jobs, nor will your school survive”). At the same gathering, the Jain cleric Vijayratnasunder Surishwar predicted that if sex education were introduced, episodes like Nithari would recur in every school and locality! Reflective of a deeply patriarchal mindset, the Jain swami went on, “We don’t want abortion centres opened in schools like in Britain, morning after pills given to teenage girls like in France, increase in the number of unmarried mothers like in America…” Murli Manohar Joshi went a step further, castigating the government for wanting to import the “western culture” of sexual relations between students and teachers. Unable to hide his deep sense of insecurity, he held that a separate curriculum on sex education “will adversely damage the rich family system of Bharat. …(O)ur family system has preserved Bharat as Bharat. If it breaks, it will also take away morality and samskaras with it”, he held.

Instead of blaming the influence and “imposition” of “degenerate western culture”, these self-appointed guardians of Bharatiya morality need to face the reality of the world of children in India today. According to a recent study sponsored by the union ministry of women and child development, Study on Child Abuse: India 2007, 53.2 per cent of the children surveyed reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. 21.9 per cent of the child respondents reported facing “severe forms” of sexual abuse. Indeed, 5.7 per cent of the child respondents reported having been sexually assaulted, these being mainly street children, child labourers and children in institutional care. So, instead of identifying bogies such as “degenerate western culture”, in effect burying our heads in the sand, should not our children be taught to recognise attempts to sexually abuse them and learn ways of warding off such criminal endeavours?

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