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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Sex Education in Indian Schools Through

Author(s): AJ Singh

Vol. 31, No. 1 (2006-01 - 2006-03)

‘Lack of sex education in Indian schools affects mental/ psychological development of children negatively’ – This view is being expresed emphatically nowadays by external experts1. The irony of the situation is that Indian experts are agreeing to this without so much of giving it a thought.

As Dr. Srivastava, a psychology faculty in an Indian university opines, ‘if we consider this advice in context of Indian culture… we can conclude that possibly … our country at least does not need it (sex education)’1. Reportedly, many teachers are opposed to the idea while simultaneously others are strongly advocating it. In view of the controversy pertaining to the subject it is important that various issues pertaining to sex education are clarified.

Firstly, it is important to know the aims and objectives of introducing the subject of sex education in school curricula. Very often, people advocate sex education saying that it will help in controlling AIDS and in reducing adolescent pregnancies and the incidents of sexual assaults on women. Such statements are misleading and are based on false assumptions. These false promises (and premises), may lead to frustration in future. Beacuse, if it had been so, there would have been no such problem in western countries which have an elaborate system of sex education in schools. We all know that sexual promiscuity and homosexuality is widely prevalent in countries like USA where family as an institution is broken and many experimental family systems exhorting free sex have been tried2. Even AIDS originated from there3. Thus, sex education is not a proven guarantee against spread of AIDS and should not be promoted with such an aim.

Experiences of sex education in India indicate that sessions on male and female sex anatomy are held separately for boys and girls!4. Why this double standards? On one hand they advocate sex education in schools and on the other hand they shy away from a common session for boys and girls! Simultaneously, it is often asserted that students should also be told about use of condoms and about hazards of prostitution. Is it really needed ?

Some people even say that it is ‘Sexy’ education rather than sex education. Way back in 1996, Chopra5 lamented about rather na´ve publicity blitz for safe sex being carried out by the Government in a thoughtless imitation of the West. He wrote ‘Safe Sex Posters’ on lamp posts are unabashedly though indirectly peddling free sex and announcing society’s stamp of approval for it. At one stroke, this campaign seeks to demolish the age-old tradition of restraint and self-control in sexual matters. The so called ‘sex education’ being advocated and promoted by many Western – oriented educationists seems only a euphemism for teaching safe – sex. It is assumed that students cannot be prevented from free sex, so teach them safe sex. This line of thinking will promote the concept of safe rape, safe hijacking and safe drug abuse5.

Before going full steam on advocating sex education in Indian schools it is important to clarify following issues:

  1. What should be the specific objectives of introducing sex education in Indian schools?
  2. Are our teachers ready and willing to deal with these topics?
  3. Are our parents willing for introduction of sex education in schools?
  4. If introduced, whether the issue of feasibility of sex education in remote rural schools of backward states like U.P., M.P., Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan has been considered properly?
  5. Are our teachers/students ready to use synonyms of male and female sex organs as used in colloquial language, in the class… which will be better understood?
  6. What mechanism are there to monitor the purity of the feelings of teachers imparting sex education? After all, they are also human beings.
  7. What policy will be adopted for answering awkward questions from students pertaining to sex?
  8. What exactly will be the contents of sex education at various levels? At what levels it will be introduced? Till what level it will continue?
  9. Will it be stopped at college/university level? if yes, why? and if no, how will it be dealt with? Will condom use be demonstrated to students?
  10. Should we teach high school students about evils of prostitution?
  11. What evidence has been collected in favour of sex education (on the basis of experience so far)?
  12. Why sex clinics have not been established in medical colleges so far, so that they could counter and compete with unscientific and unhealthy sex education being provided through other regular ‘popular’ sex clinics in the market? i.e. we have not been bold enough to address the issue of providing sex education to adults. However, we have taken the liberty to ‘pollute’ the minds of gullible and innocent children.

As far as teachers’ views are concerned, let us share what Dr. Srivastava (who is also a university teacher) writes further, ‘Human development occurs on its own. Our responsibility is just to shape it, refine it, give it a proper direction and provide good moral values. Pre-adolescent period (7-12 years) is the time for character building of students and children. During this period through reward and punishment system parents and teachers should emphasize God, love for country, friendship and love for study, music and creative activities only1. She asks – “Were our ancestors given formal sex education,?” Answer is ‘possibly No’ So did this lead to spoiling of our life style? Answer is certainly NOT. Our families were civilized and culturally/sophisticated (without sex education). So why do our children need it?

Feeling of emotions in a natural way as a part of our normal development in adolescence is a God gift. We should not take this happy experience away from our kids. The spontaneity and naturalness of arousal of a feeling for opposite sex at or before adolescence… ...the inquisitiveness and curiosity about such issues… The blushing of cheeks… unspoken feelings communicated through their eyes, ear, nose, lips…an intensely private feeling of entry of a kind of gudgudi in their lives is ‘priceless’... ... ...we have no right to deprive children of this. Their small tricks petty mischiefs… fill and decorate their golden dreams… ...these evoke nostalgic feelings when they get old …and cherish their escapades. Attraction towards opposite sex…golden thoughts which do not have any meaning…with time the thoughts also vanish…but these feelings, emotions, remembrances of school days, chatting with friends, natural infatuation with teachers is totally different from the experiences of various stages of later life.

Why should we deny and trivialize these experiences by labeling these as ‘sex education’. Yes, Sex education is important…it can be incorporated under marriage counseling…for adults but not during adolescence1.

Through sex education we will risk invitation of dirty and impure thoughts in delicate and pure minds of innocent children. Physical development and maturation is a natural process affected by geography, India is a tropical country. Here, physical maturity sets in earlier than temperate region. So, in Indian context more emphasis should be on moral education and character building before adolescence. Sex education is personal and is a family responsibility. If it is given an educational or governmental cloak it will emerge as a social problem1.

It must be emphasized here that even in US where the highest prevalence of adolescent pregnancies has been reported, nearly one third to one fifth of large school districts states do not allow sex education in their schools. Principal at one school in US emphatically stated not to consider a program or even providing teenagers with information about pregnancy prevention. Parents at school made it clear ’...the issue shall not be raised and shall be handled only by parents at home’. On the anticipated impact of sex education a US teacher opined…she is uncertain whether her intervention will actually accomplish the prevention of pregnancy or disease… or merely hold out the potential for benefit’6.

The afterlife of the MMS clip case in India captures many anxieties about the social transformation that sections of Indian society are undergoing. It has added another dimension to the debate on sex education in schools. We must realize that students are not content with the school based ‘sarkari’ sex education. The erotica is available to them through various sources, high tech or otherwise. So why offer them sex education which they reject or even mock at. It was always na´ve to suppose that the economic and technological transformations of the last decade would not have implications for the character of our social relationships and our sense of self. From metros to small towns, there is a brewing revolution in social mores. In libidinal matters, there is little doubt that we are making a transition from a society premised on secrecy, repression and relatively rigid social control to a society where dangerous knowledge, publicity, freedom and individual experiments are going to become more the norm rather than the exception. There are people who think censorship, getting rid of the internet and rigid social control is an answer to what they see as impending decadence. It is very clear that a punitive attempt to turn back the clock will not work7.

Today everything becomes available for vicarious consumption. The difficulty is that we have few models and sources of moral education left. The traditional model of moral education confused it with didacticism. Our schools are unequipped to deal with the complexities or moral discrimination. So, what should be done about it? Who is to be blamed? episode is being analyzed by sociologists and psychologists. But people who point a finger towards children forget that their three fingers are directed towards society, themselves as well as ourselves. This episode is evidence that as a teacher, administrator, educationist and parent we have totally failed. We have been unable to provide a worthwhile role model for them. We have ignored value-based education8 ... whereas many eminent educationists like S. Radhakrishan and D.S. Kothari had emphatically advocated its need. The irony is that Indian culture and tradition have guided everyone for centuries. Today, there is a state of value/normlessness all around. We have to reintroduce norms, standards and ideals of value-based education so that the Indian youth develop a proper self-identity. In India, knowledge, philosophy and character are considered as the comprehensive base for education7. We need to harp back on the strength of our own system of socialization of future citizens of India through education based on Indian value system.


  1. Srivastava V. Kitna jaroori hei skooli bachchon ke liye sex shiksha. Dainik Bhaskar dated 23.12.2004.
  2. http:\\\central\oneida.htm
  3. Singh AJ. Regulation of human sexual behaviour, sex revolution and emergence of AIDS – A historial perspective. Bull Ind. Inst. His. Med. 1997;27:63-74.
  4. Subramanian P, Kowli S, Dehmubed A, Patel V and Kavodia V. Sex Education in Indian Schools. World Health Forum, 16:1995; 277-78.
  5. Chopra GM. AIDS and the concept of morality. The Indian Express. February 15, 1996.
  6. Mandal CL, Boyle P and O’ Donohoe JA. Ethical Issue Relevant to Health Promotion. In Health Promotion Throughout the Lifespan Ch.6 3rd edition Edelman CL and Mandle CL (Eds.) Baltimore, Mosby- Year Book, Inc. 1994:121-153.
  7. Mehta PB. Sex and sensibility. The Indian Express dated 29.12.2004.
  8. Sanghvi A. Mulya adharit shiksha ki Jaroorat Danik Bhaskar 24.12.2004.

Department of Community Medicine, PGIMER, Chandigarh – 160012.
E-mail: [email protected]

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