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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sex education and "Indian Values"

In India, the Health Ministry’s plan to make the Adolescence Education Program (AEP) compulsory for schools across India has been severely attacked by organizations from both the left and right. This curriculum, jointly developed by NCERT, National Aids Control Organization (NACO) and UNICEF, has been banned by several state governments, e.g Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, etc. While the vision of the program is to provide awareness of HIV/ AIDS to adolescents, political parties (among whom the Hindu parties have been the most vocal), are seeing it as a gross violation of “Indian Values”. The scientific and educational communities have defended the curriculum with the usual stupid rhetoric of India being the land of Kamasutra.

I, for once, completely agree with the Hindu parties. The AEP needs to be opposed on several grounds: a) it hurts “Indian values” b) it turns science classes into orgies thus hampering education and c) its hardly effective in curbing the spread of HIV.

Let’s consider the first case of AEP hurting “Indian values”. It is very severe indeed. The AEP course material suggests that human beings are a result of sexual reproduction. This itself is a gross violation of “Indian values” that have always implied that humans are born asexually. In case you valentine day fetishists still remember Kunti and Gandhari; they could make babies just by looking at the sun or using household items like earthen pots. If we Indians stick to these “Indian values”, will we ever catch HIV? Also, if one is to go by “Indian values”, HIV/ AIDS is hardly an issue worth tackling. Given that reincarnation is an integral component of “Indian Values”, if you catch HIV in this life, you can always get rid of it in your next. If you people, who consider yourself liberal just because you have seen “Titanic” a few times, find these ideas silly, then consider the alternate solution offered by “Indian values”, that of child marriage. Get every child married before the excitable age of 14, as was often practiced in India, and you will neither have adventurous promiscuity nor an HIV/ AIDS epidemic.

Secondly, it is very possible that AEP will turn science classes into orgies. When I was a student of standard IX, the whole class would get steamy just by looking at the diagrams of Fallopian tubes and Vas Deferens. Of course, most of us were fully aware of sexuality well before we reached standard IX, but it took a diagram of the fallopian tubes to ignite hitherto suppressed flames. Suddenly women no longer seemed to have beards and many of my classmates replaced pictures of Samantha Fox that they hid under their beds with photocopied diagrams of the fallopian tubes.

Finally, AEP will be hardly effective in controlling HIV/ AIDS. From what I have seen of the standard X NCERT textbook, they just talk about condom being a somewhat effective way of preventing transmission without providing critical information such as how to correctly use a condom (without this, any education is pointless). The book also doesn’t cover other critical issues such as the risk of oral sex or the progression of the HIV/ AIDS including the early-symptomatic phase.

There is therefore a need for a better approach to reduce HIV transmission in light of the fact that 44% of infections occur among 15-29 year-olds in India. As one good step, the right wing government in Madhya Pradesh has asked for the AEP to be replaced with yoga classes and classes on “Indian values”. This is a great step since several mathematical epidemic models and clinical trials in Mars have indicated consistently that a combination treatment of yoga and “Indian values” can suppress the virus. Also the government needs to regulate and tap multimedia content for better awareness; we all witnessed how students in DPS were so effective in imparting sex education (even to adults) through steamy MMS clips. After all, even if AEP is part of school curriculum, it is unlikely that teachers will teach these sections. My school teacher had decided to skip the entire chapter and asked us to read it at home. She also made it clear that it won’t be part of the exams. You can guess our level of interest in sex education afterwards.


Aravind said...

Ha ha.. Hilarious! Nice post

priyanka said...

a sensitive topic put very nicely in humorous light.....
nice post!

Shivaji said...

Thanks Aravind and Priyanka