It could at best be called a dubious distinction; Lankan teenagers are ahead of their French counterparts in making their sexual debut. While a French teenager would dabble in sex at the mean age of 17.5 (boy) and 17.2 (girl), Sri Lankan boys are doing it at the age of 15.3 and girls at 14.4.
Lankan society cannot be called coy by any standard. That holds true, even if comparatively, for every ethnic group in the country. Mixing of the genders is not frowned upon and there is a general let-live attitude towards sexual minorities as well.
Female infanticide is unheard of in the country and in Colombo, a woman can drive home safely from a late night party.
But the health ministry survey with its startling findings did shock a few. The survey further found that among schoolchildren above the age of 15 years, 72 per cent were sexually active with 43 per cent engaging in heterosexual activities, 43 per cent engaged in homosexual activities and 29 per cent watched pornographic movies frequently.
Psychosexual medicine specialist Dr. Kapila Ranasinghe said the health ministry study should be taken as an indicator and not the final word on sexual trends in Sri Lanka. “It indicates that further research is needed on the issue. It also stresses on the need to spread sex education among teenagers. If they know the dangers, they will be careful and protect themselves,” Ranasinghe told HT.
Ranasinghe added that the sex education included in the local syllabus is inadequate and does not comprehensively inform students on sexual topics with a scientific backing.
"Developed countries such as France have an average age of 17.5 and 17.2 for men and women respectively. This is because they have a proper sex education system which educates the youth to be more cautious and less curious," he told the newspaper, Bottom Line.
He, however, added that Sri Lanka, compared to other countries in the SAARC region, is more open about sexual trends. “Our health indicators are better than many countries. That is the reason why HIV is not spreading so fast; we have one of the lowest incidences of HIV in the region,” he said.
India, he said, faces similar problems of lack of education on the issue. “In Sri Lanka, the gender equity is better and the society is less stratified in castes. In India, the denial or the lack of knowledge about sex is at many levels,” he said.