Sex is a feared phenomenon and a tabooed concept here in India. However as the days pass by, we hear more and more incidences of rape, sexual abuse, molestation, incest, teen pregnancies, MMS scandals, suicides because of issues related to sex. Such incidences which were shoved under the carpet earlier, are coming out of the dark now. What fruitful actions are being taken by the society to avoid such mishaps, apart from asking the law to be stricter? If the underlying attitudes and values are not correct will a stricter law help?
Most children play, make friends, go to school and are unattended by care takers for at least half the day. Imagine a child playing hide and seek with other friends in the building itself goes and hides in one of the friend’s houses who has his uncle alone at home who takes advantage of the situations and askes the child to hide with him in the bathroom so that no one finds the child and touches the child in appropriately. What is the child supposed to think? He is a nice person who is helping me hide? The child can be as small as 8 years old, will the child understand that he or she was taken advantage of their innocence? Will the child know how to react? Lets say the child is gone to the neighbour’s house to play. He or she has a child of the same age there and the friend has an older sibling who is going through puberty and is very curious and excited about their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. He invites both children to play doctor – doctor asks them to remove their clothes and touches them inappropriately saying that this is what the doctors do and its okay. In such a situation the child might not realise that he/she was taken advantage off, might just feel that they played doctor – doctor, might not feel the need to tell their parents and might keep going back to play their again and again.
Children are taught to listen to elders and obey them and what if an elder asks the child to do something wrong, keep a secret, or just do them a favour when the parents are not around, what is the child supposed to do? These are the dilemmas that a child who has not been through any sex education would face. But a child who is been educated about safe and unsafe touch would know what is okay and what isn’t, and will have strategies to escape or deal if such a situation arises. That child would immediately say no without any confusion in head and report the incidence to the parent. There are so many children who do not report these abuses to their parents because of fear and the unconscious knowledge that sex is tabooed. Many parents have inappropriate attitudes towards such mishaps, they might say that, “it happened to you because of you”. What would a 7 or a 10 year old girl or boy do consciously to invite abuse? What does the child know about it? What do you think made national television take up this topic? It is mainly because sexual abuse has become very common and many a times it is found to be done by family members themselves. National center of victims of crime says 1 out of 5 of girls and 1 out of 20 boys face child sexual abuse.
What can parents or teachers do to avoid sexual abuse? Taking away the childhood and closing away children in the 4 walls of the house as a prisoner who has done some crime, is a way that few parents resort to. Is it justified to take away childhood from children? Deny them of the memories that they can form during this time of their lives? There are so many children who grow up to resent and hate their parents as even adults for their crude behaviours that they faced as children. Some become so fed up of their parents especially girls that they end up seeking support and affection outside and fall prey to those who take advantage of their situation, while many run away from their homes in search for freedom or girls run away and get married at a very young age, some also turn out to be socially incompetent because of the lack of social exposure. Which way should be chosen by the parents to protect children than? Imagine that a child is about to walk on a completely new road. The child has no idea how it is going to be. And if the road is dangerous what would the child do? If the road has uncovered big drain holes in which there are chances for him/her to fall. If the child is given accurate knowledge about the road, i.e. the child is told that, “you might come across these uncovered drain holes so you need to be careful in case you fall in one it will be very difficult to come out and that there are chances that you might never find your way back or even die inside and hence you need to be very carefull while walking on the road, there are certain precautions that you will have to take”. In this way the child is prepared, after listening to all the information the child might just decide to not walk on that road and take a different path or even if he/she walks on it, they will be aware of the problems that they might face and keep a look out or be alert about the various dangers. But if the child does not know anything about the road he/she might just end up falling in one of these holes and be lost for ever. And who would be responsible for them being lost? Sex is very similar to this road and it is the duty of the care taker to prepare children for it before they start walking on the road, so that they don’t end up spoiling their or someone else’s life.
Lets look at it in a different way. A parent has a room in the house and the parent always keeps it locked. And the parent tells the child to “DARE NOT ENTER IN THAT ROOM, FORGET ENTERING, DO NOT EVEN LOOK AT THAT ROOM”. The parent has actually left the child so confused and curious that he/she will unknowingly and unwantedly think about the room and wonder what’s inside and finally one day unable to hold their curiosities any more they will enter the room. This room might have contained very costly scientific instruments which when broken might be difficult to get back and might hurt the child. And chemicals when touched or inhaled might be dangerous for the child. What the parent was trying to do is save the child and him/herself from a big loss.
How about doing it in a different way? For example; Opening the door of the room and showing the child what is there inside, “CAN YOU SEE ALL THE INSTRUMENTS THAT ARE KEPT INSIDE? ALL OF THEM ARE SCIENTIFIC INTRUMENTS THEY ARE VERY DELICATE. THE CHANCES OF THEM BREAKING EVEN WHEN YOU USE IT CAREFULLY ARE VERY HIGH AND IF YOU BREAK THEM YOU MIGHT ALSO GET HURT AND IT WILL ALSO COST A LOT TO BUY THEM AGAIN. APART FROM THESE INSTRUMENTS THERE ARE ALSO SOME CHEMICALS IN THERE WHICH CAN BE DANGERIOUS FOR YOUR HEALTH AND HENCE IT WOULD BE REALLY NICE OF YOU TO NOT GO INSIDE AND IF THERE ARE ANY REASONS FOR WHICH YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO GO, YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH ME.” If this explanation is given to the child there is no place for curiosity and confusion and the chances that he/she will enter the room is low, he/she will even stop others from entering the room. This is what sex education does. It would give the child accurate scientific information about themselves as they are growing up, about the opposite sex, about sex, the consequences and various other things related to it.
Netherlands is a place where sex education is given to children at the age of 5. It is statistically proven that Netherlands has a very less percentage of rape and teen pregnancies. Thus it can see how important sex education is for growing children, it has a very important role to play in every one’s life starting from children, to teenagers, young adults, even adults as well as in the old age and hence it is important to know about it and prepare appropriately, to handle it and very importantly help children deal with sexuality effectively so that they do not face problems related to it at any point in their lives.
With this the decision is left with the elders especially the parents and teachers to take the right choice for children and themselves by saying yes to sex education and avoiding a lot of problems later in life. Encourage sex education, encourage a way of healthy living.
The ultimate guide of sex education by Dr. Rajan B. Bhosle and Dr. Minnu R. Bhosle