27 Aug 2007, 0023 hrs IST, Pinki Virani
Several children, without parental permission, are ordered to strip and are groped in a Delhi school health camp — by doctors who don’t wear gloves. This is child sexual abuse but there is no law to book these doctors. To protect boys there is only Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which specifies sodomy.
This episode only underscores the existence of organisations which have no expertise in child education, but decide on what our children need to be taught in the form of sex education. Sex education is presented as cheap pornography in teaching material. How can one expect it to be better, when a motley combination of government and non-government organisations is in charge? It is not their area of expertise. Besides, they are not intrinsically invested in our children.
The state is schizophrenic in its attitudes to sex. A minister dis-allows sanitary napkin advertisements on television, yet the Censor Board allows the naming of a minor “sexy”. This cancer-ridden child, wearing spaghetti-strap tops, exchanges precocious adult banter with an old male cook. The subtext: it is okay for “harmless” old men to call girl-children sexy, talk in age-inappropriate language if they are dying.
Flush with foreign funds, a group conducts a school HIV-awareness workshop. The facilitators are young, they connect with the teens. But they are not qualified counsellors. They end up giving the impression that sex is just that — cool. In another workshop, with emphasis on experimental sex, the message is straightforward: whoever you do it with, girl or guy, just use a condom. Sadly, children are left with gaps. They are not told that continual anal sex can lead to sphincter and bowel problems.
Or, that oral sex can also transmit HIV if an infection of one partner meets the other’s blood through a gum-bleed or cut in the mouth.
We are seeing the hyper-sexualisation of sex education. Our children are urged to think of sex as an out-of-body experience, in isolation of their physical, mental, spiritual lives — it is all about sexual rights, with a condom to delete HIV and pregnancy.
No wonder parents are petrified about sex education in schools. But with no sex education at home either, where does it leave our children? Around half our nation is currently under 20 years. On the one hand, we have the Internet with its paedophiles, the fashion world’s bisexual brigade and item girls saying that sexuality can be bartered for a career. On the other hand, we have faiths which frown on sex except for childbearing and families which forbid gender interaction.
Positive parenting and sound schooling can avoid these extreme situations. Proper parenting starts young with the use of biological words at home to explain good touch and bad touch to children. Parents should be clued into the child’s inner life. One should answer questions and address their gender issues at the appropriate age. One should stay connected with children through their academic lives. If home has 50 per cent of the sexual predators, the world opening to the child has the rest. The latter, as increasing reports indicate, includes schools.
A child’s protection and sex education is possible with strong parent-teacher associations (PTA). Some schools fostering strong partnerships in their PTA are working together to draw up an acceptable sex education syllabus.
Sex education is grouped under age-appropriate classes and adapted to cultural requirements. In fact, it is not called sex education but gender studies imparting life skills and moral science. Any title which broadens the scope of the subject to put it in the right perspective, instills respect for the human body and approaches sex with sensitivity is fine.
This syllabus is taught by qualified teachers, with child psychology being a part of their BEd curriculum. In evolved PTAs, teachers could hold an additional degree in counselling to double up as alternatives to the pathetic in-school counsellors. Our children could turn out fine in such a set-up.
The writer works on issues of child sexual abuse.
Thanks to Askios for the link to the article. ]