India needs sex education as much as condom promotion to fight HIV/AIDS, says Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. He has written to all states requesting them to stop opposing sex education in schools and to use the course material in a culturally-sensitive way.
“Education does not cause promiscuity but protects adolescents from making wrong choices. The sex education course material is meant for educators and teachers to adapt and use in a culturally-sensitive way, so that no one is offended,” Ramadoss told HT.
“People need to worry more about what children see in films and on television and not about what they are taught as part of the curriculum. We need sex education as much as we need condom promotion, safe blood and protecting people from drug use in the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS,” he said.
States like Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have banned or refused to implement sex education in schools, saying the course material provided by the Centre is too explicit for Indian cultural sensibilities.
“We want awareness, not controversy. There are 600 million young people under the age of 25 years in India and lack of information about sexual choices puts these young lives at risk and jeopardises the country’s fight against AIDS,” says Ramadoss.
The Health Ministry and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) are keen on introducing basic sex education as part of life-skills training in schools. With most parents and teachers shying away from discussing issues of even a remotely sexual nature, many adolescents have little or no access to correct information about sex in many parts of the country.
According to UNICEF, a “question box” put up in schools in Sangli district of Maharashtra, inviting students to post queries, got over 1,00,000 questions in a year.
“There is obviously a need for information. We are not giving young people ideas; the ideas are already there. The fact is many young people experiment with sex and we need to accept that,” said NACO director general Sujatha Rao.