The Daily Northwestern

Pashankar: On the importance of sex education in my community and beyond

Neha Pashankar, Op-Ed Contributor

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Comprehensive and medically accurate sex education should be taught in every high school in the world, public and private. Sex is a beautiful and intimate experience that millions of people engage in. But it can be dangerous when informed by myths and misconceptions, like pulling out being an effective form of birth control or herpes being transmitted only via sex when a simple kiss is enough. Access to sex education that does not peddle myths like these is a human right.

Wouldn’t it be weird if you were in a room filled with random people and no one was talking about one of the few things you all had in common? That’s how sex is dealt with in our society. I’m Indian and Muslim, and neither of those cultures acknowledge pre-marital sex, among many others around the world that see it as taboo. But this hush-hush culture doesn’t prevent it from happening.

The basis of the problem starts with the lack of Indian policies mandating sexual education in schools. According to a report from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, most secondary schools in India, private and public, don’t include any form of sexual education in their curriculum.

A conservative approach to sexuality leads to a vicious cycle of shame that exacerbates the consequences of unsafe sex practices. For instance, India has the third highest number of people infected with HIV, an epidemic partially caused by a lack of discussion about safe and healthy sex. This same stigma causes most of those affected by the virus not to seek treatment.

India also reports some of the highest numbers of teen pregnancy, demonstrating that refusing to address the commonality of premarital sex has not prevented it from causing devastating consequences. If young women in India had the opportunity to learn about birth control and family planning, they would be able to advance their educations and careers. Access to contraception is proven to lead to economic and social growth.

The consequences of the lack of discussion around sexuality are severe. Sexual violence and rape are too common and not punished appropriately. National Crime Records Bureau data reported that 38,947 women were raped in India in 2016, and most rapes go unreported. Educating adolescents about their bodies and sexuality teaches them how to recognize the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch, a crucial basis for understanding consent and preventing sexual assault.

So many issues could be prevented if there was greater discussion around sexual health and education. These issues aren’t specific to India or the U.S.; they are universal. Let’s start a discussion and end the stigma around sex today.

Neha Pashankar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at nehapashankar2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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