Can lack of knowledge on sexuality lead to something as heinous a crime as marital rape? Quite likely, as calls from men to a phone helpline in New Delhi indicate many of them admitting to have done so and sought counselling after that.
"There is an urgent need to look at sexuality in an affirming way. Eighty-two per cent of the calls that we get are from men, and of them, 68 per cent are below the age of 30," said Radhika Chandiramani, executive director of the South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality that runs the helpline.
"In many cases, it's an arranged marriage and the man is worried of his 'performance' on the wedding night. He wants to know as much as possible, even about the woman's anatomy."
"He doesn't want to force himself on his wife but at the same time he doesn't want to lose face in front of his friends about not being a 'man' enough," Chandiramani told IANS on the sidelines of a press conference in the capital on Monday.
Peer pressure, fear of snide remarks from relatives the day after the wedding and similar factors result, at times, in the man forcing himself upon his wife.
"At times the men force themselves on their wives and then call for counselling, feeling terrible and guilty. They go on to enquire what are the signs of sexual arousal in a woman, what are the signs that she is as prepared as he is and the like."
"And we go on to tell him the way a woman's body functions, how she is different from him... all such calls reinstate the need for a comprehensive sexual education in the school curriculum because all of this shows a lack of basic knowledge," she said.
Most of these callers get back after five weeks or so and thank them for the help and the guidance rendered.
"No wonder many young women confess at having traumatic first sexual experience post-marriage. Many young men who could be termed as marital rapists are in need of basic information about sexuality and a validation of their masculinity," Chandiramani added.
More such first-hand experiences in dealing with the youth and the young people's opinions and suggestions in this regard will be discussed and debated at the 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSH).
The basic aim of the conference, which will be held at Hyderabad from Oct 29-31, will be to enhance and accelerate the process of operationalising the reproductive and sexual health and rights agenda in the Asia-Pacific region.
More than 40 countries will participate in the conference.