My childhood notions about ‘where the baby came from’ were ambiguous. I first heard the word ‘sex’ when I was prodded by seniors into pronouncing ‘John Saxe’, a poet in one of our Class VI English textbooks. That day, I looked up the dictionary. I remember scuttling between ‘intercourse’, ‘sexual’ and ‘sex’. Finally, I thought I understood once I recalled lessons on reproduction. I don’t remember asking my parents about it; I probably didn’t think it was worth bothering them with.
Most children don’t know what they mean when they say “gay” in Class VI. It’s just supposed to be cool. Later in Class VII, I remember how the teacher brushed cautiously past the topic. Almost every child in the class was giggling. Now I realise that the sketchy information in the textbook, and the teacher’s qualms in reading out the lesson, made it a kind of taboo topic. By this time, however, most of us knew that it led to having children, though we were ignorant of the biological aspect.
The epiphany came in Class VIII. We had a two-hour seminar for girls, one without our mothers, and one hour the following day, with them. At the seminar, gynaecologists talked about puberty, the menstrual cycle, STDs, and the difference between bad touch and good touch; they cautioned us about unsafe sex and Aids. Most kids pitched in with genuine queries. The seminar made it sound like a natural process after marriage to have kids, nothing more. When I told my mother about it the first day, she sounded pretty relieved that she didn’t have to explain it. Ever since, I’ve never thought about it as an unspeakable topic. In fact, I explained it to my younger sister soon after. When we studied an entire chapter on reproduction and Aids in Class IX, no one was fascinated.
Once you study about it in biology, that’s the end of sex education. Not too many kids are amused by the topic, maybe because we study it. Anyway, after the seminar, if at all anyone felt inclined to experiment, they’d be sure about contraceptives. Awareness then is indispensable, preferably through a two-hour seminar, followed by a biology lesson.
This system of sex education worked for me. I’ve always been cautious about potential malefactors, and never shied from explaining sex to my peers or juniors. I do feel though that the earlier the topic is introduced, the better.
Imagine an eight-year-old, being enticed by a conductor, recognising his intentions and walking away towards other kids, and then reporting him at home. That would be the success of such a programme, carried out by outside agencies. Why does anyone need 40 hours — we’re not training gynaecologists to treat gonorrhoea?
It’s simple. Implement sex education.
Lavanya is a Class X student at a Delhi school