Why sex education is important in India
I knew she was crying the moment she said “Hello”.
“Hi, Payal*. Is everything okay?”
“I need your help, Ana,” she told me. “Is this a good time to talk?”
“Of course. I am here. Tell me.”
“So around 45 days back, I had sex with a guy. Just after 15 days, I started bleeding — and it was within 20 days of the previous period. After that, I still haven’t had my period yet. Usually, my cycle is fairly regular, so I am tensed about it.”
“Did you take an emergency contraceptive pill?”
“Yes,” she replied with a sigh.
“Okay,” I said. “And did he orgasm inside you?”
“Yes,” she said, stifling a sob.
“Okay. Well, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, because since you’ve already gotten your period once, chances are, you aren’t pregnant.”
“Are you sure it was a period? The bleeding was lighter than usual and it lasted for barely three days.”
“See, only a doctor can be 100% sure at this point, but as far as I know, you have nothing to worry about. The emergency contraceptives have hormone inhibitors that mess up with the period cycle. A delayed and irregular period are common side effects.”
“But Payal, please remember this from next time onwards: NEVER HAVE SEX WITHOUT A CONDOM. It’s not just about getting pregnant; there are so many other risks.”
“Other risks like?”
“Like you could get a fucking STD,” I said, exasperated.
“AIDS. You could get AIDS.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. Fuck, this is scary. Next time I won’t let him orgasm inside me.”
“No, you idiot. You could get AIDS or you could get pregnant (OR BOTH) even if he just penetrates you for like one second without a condom. It’s THAT dangerous, do you get it?”
“Oh, Ana, I am scared,” she said, sobbing.
I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, “You should be,” and told her instead — “It’s okay. The worst is over now. Since it has been 45 days already and you aren’t showing any symptoms and you even had your period, I think you should be pretty much fine. Still, to be on the safe side, I would strongly urge you to get a pregnancy test done.”
“Oh my God, Ana, I cannot go to a hospital. My parents will kill me if they find out.”
“You don’t have to go to a doctor,” I said, trying my best not to yell at her. “You can just go to a medicine store and ask for a pregnancy test kit. They show advertisements about them all the time on the television. Haven’t you seen them?”
“I have, I have. They show advertisements about contraceptive pills too, and you just told me they are bad for health.”
“Yes, they cause hormonal imbalances and have several side effects — so they should be taken as infrequently as possible — maybe not more than 4–5 times in your entire lifetime.”
She wasn’t convinced. She believed that morning-after pills served the same purpose as birth-control pills. I sent her several links differentiating between the two, but she didn’t reply to my messages.
She talked to me for a few more minutes before saying she was getting an urgent call and hanging up.
I stood there for a long time after, gaping at my phone’s screen.
I wasn’t shocked. I was astounded that someone who indulged in premarital sex had been so irresponsible as to not make themselves aware of the risks involved.
So now, coming to the question: Why is sex education important, especially in India?
Because this friend of mine wasn’t a naive teenager who still believed in unicorns and Santa Clause but a 26-year-old working woman who had the internet and almost every resource at her disposal as I did.
And even then,
- She was unaware of the dangers of unprotected sex
- She had never heard the term STD
- She had no clue about the consequences of taking emergency contraceptives
- She believed that one needed parental permission to get a pregnancy test done
- She was oblivious to the existence of over-the-counter pregnancy test kits, and
- She preferred taking emergency contraceptives over and over again, rather than simply asking her guy to use a condom.
I think it is high time that we introduce something as basic as sex education in our country of 134 crore people.
Sex education can not only improve the standard of living, but it can actually save the lives of so many people who spend their entire lives in ignorance.
In fact, to bring about such change, the first step that needs to be taken is normalizing sex and not treating it as taboo. Instead of something that is only talked about behind closed doors, sex education should be treated like a vital toolkit for survival, the seeds of which should be sown at home.
Yes, I am talking about strict and sanskaari Indian parents giving up the euphemisms, sitting their children down and telling them in no unclear words what is what and which goes where.
And what happens if something is not put over it when this goes inside that.
*Name changed for obvious reasons.
(I wish this story was as made up as her name, but it isn’t).