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E.Earlier this month, a man and his minor son were arrested for sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl with whom they were related for more than six months. He had 51,863 reported cases under the Child Sex Offenses Protection Act in 2021, according to the National Criminal Records Bureau (NCRB). Of these, 33,348, or 64%, were due to sexual assault. How can child abuse be prevented? An effective approach would be comprehensive sex education. According to the United Nations (UN), it is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sex.
Several state governments and certain sectors of society in India have adopted an ostrich-like approach to comprehensive sex education. For sexualizing children, they either watered down existing programs or withdrew programs on the grounds that they violated “Indian values”. Traditional values are often shaped by patriarchal and hierarchical social structures. Mass media often propagate such values. All of this has a negative impact on young people, regardless of gender.
In connection with the POCSO case, the Madras, Delhi and Meghalaya High Courts, together with the Chief Justice of India, stressed that consensual juvenile relationships are often criminalized, considers lowering the age of consent to the government requested to do so. Understanding sexual consent is important not only for learning about violations and abuses, but also for maintaining healthy relationships. But do teenagers and even young people in India know what sexual consent means? A survey by dating app Tinder found that more than 64% of young people in Mumbai are hesitant to give, seek or withdraw consent when dating someone. . This worries me.
The concept of sexual consent evolved through criminal jurisprudence, but the term itself may have been borrowed from English or other Western languages. In Sir Richard Burton’s translation, Kama Sutra Although there is a brief discussion of consensual sexual pleasure, no discussion of this concept has traditionally existed. With a significant number of non-English-speaking populations, there is an urgent need to create a clear vocabulary in regional languages for discussing the concept of sexual consent and its nuances.
NCRB data show that schools need to provide comprehensive sex education not only to children, but also to parents and caregivers. Data show that both male and female children are victims of sexual abuse.
happiness and dignity
As the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states, “The right to comprehensive sex education is based on a fundamental human right and is a tool that empowers young people to defend their health, well-being and dignity.” . The United Nations Global Guidance recommends comprehensive sex education beginning at the age of five, alongside formal education. This means teaching young children about their bodies, their emotions, the basic principles of consent, and how to deal with violence, bullying, and abuse. According to the review, “30 Years of Research: The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education,” Youth Health Journal Comprehensive sex education makes young people better informed about their rights and sexuality and more likely to participate in sexual activity later on, according to the World Health Organization. A program built solely on the concept of abstinence is ineffective.
The impact of comprehensive sex education is far-reaching, especially when it comes to intimate partner violence. Key intervention area 4 of UNFPA’s operational guidance on comprehensive sexuality education states: “Ensure that CSE programs have sound monitoring and ensure that the evaluation elements are included.” On 10 August 2023, the State Board of Education, Research and Training notified the Kerala High Court that awareness of POCSO will be incorporated into her curriculum from 2024 to 2025. Because the relationship between sexual health and human rights is complex, non-linear and interconnected, it is desirable that the curriculum be holistic and not merely related to law.
UNESCO’s 2021 State of the World Report on “Steps Towards Inclusive Sexuality Education” states that teacher capacity development is important as curricula call for non-intuitive and participatory teaching. The report warns of the impact of inaccurate information and values that silence discussions about sexuality and rights. Teachers reported that existing programs lacked the knowledge to speak on diverse topics. This report focuses on case studies of government and NGOs in Jharkhand. There, the school-based program ‘Udaan’, which began as a youth reproductive and sexual health program led by the State AIDS Control Association, was mainstreamed into the Ministry of Education as a model. We are working to expand comprehensive sex education.
In India, the responsibility for sex education lies with state governments. States have the freedom to develop creative curricula within the framework proposed by UNFPA. The time has come for them to do so.