The insistence of the UPA Government in introducing controversial sex education curriculum in schools has been receiving flakes all over the country. In the face of mounting criticism and public protests, several state governments have been banning it outrightly. So far Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and many other states have banned the curriculum on finding highly objectionable and obscene contents in it. Those supporting sex education in school curriculum relentlessly plead that its introduction has been necessitated by the impending threats of an AIDS epidemic in India. They also argue that such curriculums are being followed in the developed countries of the West, hence India needs to follow suit.
The sex education curriculum is primarily a product of a mindset that seeks to secure western prescriptions to Indian problems. Such a mindset which has crept into our policy making and decision making set up since colonial times refuses to acknowledge Indian realities. The policy makers with such mindset remain blatantly oblivious of the fact that sex education was introduced in US, UK and other European countries to counter the growing menace of teenage pregnancies. These countries have different cultural set up with disintegrating family system, single parent family becoming a norm, and loss of traditional societal pattern resulting in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted Diesese (STD). In many cases, sex education has led to promiscuous behavioural pattern resulting in risky sexual engagements.
In West also where the sex education programme was started in schools with much expectation, a process of rethinking has started. A Medical Research Council study in British medical journal examined sex same in both groups, at 300 per 1000 women. Abortions were the same, with 120 women in every 1000 having at least one termination. Adolescent Pregnancy?Current trends and Issues: 1998; Report of Committee on Adolescence.
The unusual emphasis on contraceptives in the sex education curriculum too has started showing the flawed understanding of the problem. In October 2006, The British Medical journal reported that easier access to the morning after pill had no measurable effect on rates of pregnancy or abortion. Researchers from Nottingham University Business School published a report concluding that providing the pills to teenagers free of charge at pharmacies had no impact on teenage pregnancy rates in England. In US, Report of Committee on Adolescence published in 1998, states that despite increasing use of contraception by adolescents at the time of first intercourse, 50 per cent of adolescent pregnancies occur within the first six months of initial sexual intercourse. In US one million teenagers become pregnant each year?51 per cent pregnancies end in live births, 35 per cent end in induced abortion and 14 per cent in a miscarriage or stillbirth. Most recently, Wales Assembly has rejected school condom plan. Free condoms and contraceptive pills will not be handed out to pupils at secondary schools in Wales, unlike in UK.
Sex Education has failed to deliver the desired results and now these western societies are exploring alternatives in abstinence, chastity and conventional sex education. US schools, for instance, have eliminated much of their sexuality education curricula and have replaced it with programmes that pledge abstinence only. The alarming rise in STDs and unplanned pregnancies among unmarried teenage men and women in Britain has led to the launch of a number of US style abstinence projects over the past three years such as Lovewise, The Romance Academy, and the Silver Ring Thing, which invites teenagers to make a pledge of chastity until they wed. Therefore, it may be noted that the consensus on sex education that the western societies had arrived in 1950s and 1960s in the face of growing teenage pregnancies and even went to the extent of legalising abortions, is now breaking and they are seeking refuge in traditional methods including sex-controlling mechanisms.
The sex education programme also claims to contain the impending AIDS ?epidemic?. There are also doubts over the statistics advanced by certain organisations regarding the status of HIV-AIDS cases in India given flawed methodology in collection of the data. It is often alleged that the hoax of HIV-AIDS epidemics is created at the behest of certain transnational vested interests that are finding India a market, lucrative and yet to be explored for their sex related products. It has been rightly commented that the proposed sex education programme appears more to be sex encouragement and condom selling programme. It seems that those who are making decision to introduce a sex education programme with highly vulgar contents have not cared to study its implications in the western society and the current trends therein. While the western countries are yearning to dump it, policy makers in India appear to be proving themselves a ready dumping ground.
(The writer is a Research Scholar, JNU.)