Sex ed suppressed in India

The federal government pushes for sex ed while conservatives oppose it.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published July 16, 2007 10:10PM (EDT)

For those of you feeling a little irony deficient today, check this out: India, the same country that gave birth to the Kama Sutra, is acting highly squeamish about the idea of sex education, Reuters reports today. This is hardly a new cultural contradiction (remember, conservatives recently took to the streets over a public kiss on the cheek) but one nicely illustrated by a battle between conservatives and the federal government, which is pushing for comprehensive sex education in the face of rising HIV infection rates.

The state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have banned sex ed in public schools; meanwhile, the federal government is powerless to intervene. Now, even the governments of so-called progressive states like Kerala and Karnataka are considering a ban. Conservatives' argument is that sex ed will brainwash students with "decadent western morality"; they say the country's rising rates of premarital sex are evidence of just that.

Somehow those rates seem more like evidence that India's young people are desperately in need of lessons on how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. "Sex education does not mean you are encouraging sex, which is how it's interpreted," Renuka Chowdhury, India's minister for women and child development, told Reuters. "Sex education is an insurance for your child. It will protect your child."

Considering that India has the highest number of HIV cases worldwide, one can only hope the point made by Roshni Behuria, a mother of two, will sink in sooner rather than later: "Killing the education bit won't reduce the propensity towards sex. But it just might end up killing safe-sex ignorant young people."

Tracy Clark-Flory

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