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Porn tops teen spending

Eleven per cent of boys between 12 and 18 years are sexually active, 50 per cent of them do not use contraception and a majority of them spend their pocket money on pornography.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 04:53 IST

Eleven per cent of boys between 12 and 18 years are sexually active, 50 per cent of them do not use contraception and a majority of them spend their pocket money on pornography.

These were the findings of a pilot study conducted by the National Institute for Research on Reproductive Health (NIRRH) on adolescent behaviour. The project was a result of NIRRH’s initiative to set up a letterbox in a private school and college in Parel to answer queries adolescents may have but didn’t know whom to ask.

Over three years, the letterbox received 800 anonymous queries from 600 students that provide an interesting insight into adolescent concerns. All 800 questions were sex-related. Questions about masturbation, HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse and intercourse were most common.

What was unexpected, say researchers involved in the study, is the frequency of questions on homosexuality. “We had many questions about whether holding hands or hugging a person of the same sex constitutes homosexuality,” says Dr Beena Joshi, the research officer who spearheaded the study for NIRRH.

NIRRH also conducted focus group discussions with the students where concerns like teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases were discussed. When groups of boys were asked where they spend their money, the majority said they spend most of their pocket money on pornography. “While the boys were very forthcoming during the discussions, the girls were very hesitant to ask any questions. If they did they would always present the problem or situation as someone else’s, not their own,” says Joshi.

While 11 per cent of boys are sexually active, only four per cent of girls admitted to having sex. And only 50 per cent used contraception. Among the 89 per cent that said they were not sexually active, many admitted to indulging in non-coital sex.

The study also found that teachers need to be more desensitised to questions on sex. “Their body language when they have to answer sex-related queries clearly suggests they are awkward,” says Joshi. Teachers are not the only ones who need to change their attitude: 10 per cent of all the students approached for the study did not have consent from their parents to participate in the study.

Lack of proper information on sex and lack of qualified portals to answer adolescent queries are major concerns, NIRRH believes. Currently, only the Internet, newspaper columns that answer sex-related queries and peers are major sources of information. The response they received to the pilot prompted the NIRRH to follow up with the BMC to expand the scope of the project. The NIRRH has tied up with two BMC health posts in the ‘F’ South ward to set up ‘Jagruti’ – centres that will cater to all kinds adolescent queries. “These are adolescent-friendly places. Adolescents like to believe they are a health group. We don’t want to put them off by calling it a health centre,” Joshi says.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 04:53 IST