Sex education need of the hour, say educationists

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 20 Januari 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Close to five years ago, when Vasant Purke, the then education minister, floated a plan to introduce sex education as a subject in school, he drew criticism from across the board. So-called activists staged protests and burnt his effigy, objections were raised in the cabinet, the move was termed a western conspiracy to corrupt local culture, and the proposal was nipped in the bud.

Today, educationists claim sex education is the need of the hour.

With a four-year-old molested on a school bus in Juhu this week, many educationists believe sex education for pre-teens has never been more important. With the average age of puberty declining, knowing about sex and one's own body at an early age is of utmost importance, claim educationists.

Podar Institute of Education director Swati Popat Vats says even two-year-olds can be trained about good and bad touch. "Children should be made aware of which parts of their body (others) can be allowed to touch and which not," she said.

According to her, since many are averse to the use of the words 'sex education', the topic can be termed 'body intelligence'.

She said parents should have an open talk with children. "If a child asks a question, it means he or she is ready to know the answer," she said. "Parents should not make it sound like a taboo."

Many believe molesters prey on the young as they can be threatened into silence. Three to four year old children will not even be aware of their advances, making it easier for them. So it is important to make them talk about their experiences.

Rekha Shahani from Kamla High School said calling experts for seminars and workshops is most helpful as students are more comfortable asking questions to an outsider. "Sex education can be incorporated in existing subjects. Kids should be trained from a young age, in primary school. It has to be taught to them gradually in their growing years," she said.

If questions are not answered by teachers and parents, students have access to other, unfiltered sources like the internet, from where they can get information, said Perin Bagli, principal, Activity High School. "Making students aware of the topic at an early age is important as these days they have access to unfiltered information on the internet too. It is the duty of the parents too to teach their children sex education," Bagli said.

Dr Shankar Das of the School of Health Systems Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said, "Teaching kids about sex and sexuality demands a gentle, uninterrupted flow of accurate, age-appropriate info that should begin as early as possible. Parents need to start educating as early as when they teach a toddler different body parts; without feeling uncomfortable they need to teach about the reproductive organs also. As the child grows, parent, caregivers, teacher and public health campaigns may continue their teaching by adding further materials until he or she understands the subject well."

He added, "'sex' word is a taboo in our society, but naming "sex education" as another name only indicates that our own discomfort or uneasiness about this important subject. By disguising the actual content of sex education as "health education" or any other name may only dilute the subject in the present context when the our children need to be empowered with correct information and various ways of handle matter related to their own sexuality and protect them from any kind of sexual abuse or violence."

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