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Posted by Gugush Chopra

The word ‘sex’ is a taboo here, yet this is the most populous democracy in the world. Also known as the ‘World’s Rape Capital’, this country is also the host to Asia’s largest hub for sex work.

Any guesses for which country I’m referring to? Well… It’s none other than our ‘Incredible India’.

So yes, whether it’s the word ‘sex’, ‘sexuality’ or anything directly (virginity, sexual desires or feelings) or even remotely related (menstruation) to ‘sex’, it is outright prohibited, forbidden, and censured here – even the very mention of them, let alone a healthy, meaningful discussion or education on this matter. As India has a legacy of rich cultural and traditional heritage, our society’s sexual conduct is based on the ideals of ‘sexual morality and conservatism’ (oh, I love my country).

The funny thing is that India has also recently topped the list as ‘Most Dangerous Country for Women’ in a survey of global experts (June 2018), leaving behind war-torn Afghanistan and Syria on the second and third position, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the countries on lower positions were considered dangerous due to the lack of access to health care and economic resources for women, conflict-related violence, discrimination against women at workplace and/or property rights (besides incidents of sexual violence), whereas India exclusively monopolised over sex crimes and gender-based violence, and bagged the top position for risks women face from “sexual violence and harassment, cultural and traditional practices, and human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude”. Hats off !

This is a society which nurtures the presumption that conversations of sexual nature will only entice children or young people into sexual promiscuity.

And, whilst we’ve all heard the screams and shouts around ‘stranger’ rapes from Delhi to Kathua, there has been a deafening silence around the fact that 94.6% of reported rapes committed in India (in 2016) were ‘acquaintance rapes’, at least according to the National Crime Records Bureau 2017 national report.

What Kind Of A Society Is This? ‘Sanskari’ At Best?

Well, India’s relentless silence around the word ‘sex’ and its socio-cultural association with shame and promiscuity have turned it into the perverted society it is today.

This is a society which nurtures the presumption that conversations of sexual nature will only entice children or young people into sexual promiscuity. This is a society that has chained its intellect to a slanderous construction of the term sex and has tirelessly displayed a hypocritical repugnance towards it. This is a society where people make babies in bulk, but talking about sex is nothing less than a scandal. Finally, this is a society that is so wobbly in its moral values that all it takes for its sexual urges to go frantic and its sexual integrity to fall apart is a mere reverberation of the word sex.

Truly sanskari, isn’t it?

In keeping with these sanskars, Indian parents think, or at least prefer to think that if they remain tight lipped about it, their children will never get to know about sex. Whilst it is unclear as to whether this song and dance about silence and shame is deliberated to pre-empt pre-marital sex, what’s certain though, is that this has turned out to be a recipe for disaster.

Sex is not necessarily about sexual desires or sexual intimacy. And sex education is certainly not about teaching children how to have sex, or to encourage them to engage in it.

Simply because parents and teachers vowed to never talk about sex, children and young people have been pushed into accessing discreet, unreliable, and sometimes objectionable sources for knowledge or guidance about sex such as pornography. For what it entails (portrayal of man as powerful and dominant, and of woman as subjugated and complaint; men acting in sexually aggressive manner and women feeling happy or eroticised upon being sexually abused; whooped up genitalia and exaggerated physical endurance as a flagship of masculinity) we, as adults, know that pornography is a total charade, a gross misrepresentation of sex, sexuality, body image and man-woman intimate relationships.

However, to the impressionable minds, the glorified but misleading and distorted portrayal of sexual pleasure in adult content is encouraging experimentation, and rendering the audacity to engage in (sexually) risky behaviours, often prematurely.

Also read: Is Sexuality Education Against Indian Culture? | #WhyCSE

Moreover, social media has presented opportunities for sexual exploitation and child sex abuse that never existed before. Therefore, the need to break the silence and to have healthy and age-appropriate conversations about sex with children and young people is dire in today’s times.

Sex Education “Is Not About” Teaching Children How To Have Sex

Sex is not necessarily about sexual desires or sexual intimacy. And sex education is certainly not about teaching children how to have sex, or to encourage them to engage in it. But it is everything from sexual health and hygiene, safety and self-defence, coercion and consent, to dangers and risks associated with reckless sexual behaviour. So, whether it is about pre or post-pubertal physiological changes they are experiencing, their attraction towards people of opposite sex, anxiety about exploring their sexuality or, emerging but dangerous trends like sexting, or revenge porn; parents and teachers need to rise above their forbiddance, exercise maturity  and take that step to have those conversations with their children.

Given the sensitivity and significance of the issue, it is imperative that children and young people see parents as their first port of call when it comes to information, guidance, or questions of sexual nature. This makes it for parents’ duty, even before the teachers to establish a loving and trusting bond, and open up channels of communication by either initiating a dialogue or by encouraging their children to approach them unfettered, when anxious, curious or in any confusion. This knowledge and emotional connection are likely to be more effective in delaying or preventing any untoward engagement in sexual activity, than indifferently suppressing all conversations about sex.

Also read: Sex Positivity As A Response To Moral Policing Of Women’s Sexuality

In fact, it is shallow and moronic in this day and age to defer or decline these conversations, given the rate at which sex crimes are rising in this country. Indian society is faced with moral panic. It needs to alter its approach by trusting the sensibilities of younger generations, and as its most utmost priority, must impart correct information and supportive guidance about this matter with a view to safeguarding to children and young people from either falling prey to attacks of sexual abuse/exploitation, or from becoming future perpetrators of sex crimes.


Gugush Chopra holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights Law (with specialism in women’s rights) from the University of Nottingham and has formerly worked in the violence against women sector in the UK. She is passionate about the rights of women, children and transgender people to live a life free of sexual violence and exploitation.

Featured Image Source: Light House for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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