Sexual education in India is a currently debated topic in India. In July, Harsh Vardhan, India’s new health minister, released a statement criticizing the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV and the current sex education program and suggested that sex-ed be banned altogether (1). Upon submitting another statement to clarify his position, he explained that the current program was “graphic and crude” and that it should be replaced with a program focusing on the “dangers of teen pregnancy” (1). Culturally, sex is a taboo topic and discussions surrounding or focusing on sex are highly regulated and often biased. This could be the result of strict religious views which state that sex is an act committed only between a husband and a wife and premarital sex is highly frowned upon. Some opponents of sex education fear that more explicit detail could be harmful to traditional family values. This debate has become highly political with strong social influences. In the article written by Kayla Ruble, the East India Comedy troupe made a YouTube video expressing their views on the topic concluding that “sex is not a stigma, ignorance is” (1). They, like many others believe that traditional and cultural values can still be respected and preserved while providing uncensored, accurate, and informational sexual education.
In a paper written by Stephen Schensul et al., sexual risk reduction is examined in married men and women in urban India. They discuss finding ways to prevent the spread of HIV while still keeping in mind the “folk concepts of illness” (2). This directly ties in with the sexual education issue. By omitting information that can promote safe sex, people are left without protection from diseases like HIV. Withholding this information for the sake of protecting cultural values is the act of turning a blind eye to reality and putting people’s lives in the hands of something that is not real. Denying proper sexual education will not make people stop having sex and only serves to harm the country further. Anthropologists can play a big role in creating a way to provide the necessary information without tarnishing traditional Indian values.
(1) Ruble, Kayla. “India’s Health Minister Mocked for Proposing to Ban Sex Education.” Vice News. July 17, 2014. Accessed August 7, 2014. https://news.vice.com/article/indias-health-minister-mocked-for-proposing-to-ban-sex-education
(2) Stephen L. Schensul et al., “Sexual Risk Reduction among Married Women and Men in Urban India: An Anthropological Intervention.” Anthropology and Public Health, Bridging Differences in Culture and Society. Ed. 2 (2009). Accessed August 7, 2014. http://www.fss.ulaval.ca/cms/upload/ant/fichiers/almekkiberrada2009comportements_sexuels_a768;_risque_en_inde_anthopology__publichealth.pdf