By Abhay Vaidya
Since biology has decided that it is the female who will bear the heavier consequences of sexual union, especially if it results in a pregnancy, we need to acquaint our teenagers and adolescents with some basic principles quickly. It is not the practicals but the theory which is very important.
All the more important, because perhaps, the day is not very far when like in the US and the UK, Indian parents too will need to arm their teenagers with condoms as the primary protection against the consequences of under-aged sexuality. There is a far more sensible way to deal with the issue before we reach such a stage.
First comes the acceptance that it is not the youngsters who are to be blamed for a misperceived sexual overdrive, but we as a consumerist society for igniting baser passions from morn to night. More than a decade ago, it is the newspapers among all the media of mass communication, which first used skin show to attract readers to their columns to boost circulation and revenue. Since then, the Page-3 supplement has adequately matured and is suffused with the day’s quota of titillation. But since that’s not enough, some cleavages are thrown on the national, world and the sports pages to spice them up. Not to leave out the front page if Poonam Pandey or Sunny Leone are making news.
The evolution of market forces has been such that you need a fair, good-looking, sexily dressed- or undressed- woman to sell virtually anything- from slippers to shampoo and everything in-between including fairness cream for the vagina. In the advertising world, sexual innuendos are considered more powerful and creative and undoubtedly have a bigger impact on the mind, certainly more so on juvenile minds. The Internet, television and films take care of the rest of the bombarding and we are left wondering why our teenagers are hyper-sexed today.
Many decades ago, the American philosopher Will Durant noted that modern civilisation “has unwisely stimulated” the sexual impulse and has “blown it up with a thousand forms of incitation, advertisement, emphasis, and display…”
Having established that we adults are to be blamed for driving our children to experiment with sex the moment they touch puberty, it is necessary that we deal with the issue in sensible ways.
There is one dominant section of Indian society which abhors the idea of sex education in schools. Having grown up in taboo environments, they express shock at the idea of acquainting our teens with all the technicalities and consequences of sex. This lot has now become irrelevant as today’s teenagers are already well-acquainted with the 2+2 mathematics. And then there are the Abhishek Manu Singhvis of the world who keep popping up from time to time to spark debate and discussion on the topic.
What we really need to do is transfer the wisdom of our mistakes to teenagers and adolescents so that they think and act rather than act and then think. They need to understand that fundamentally the biological wiring is such that boys want sex and girls want love. If there’s genuine love on both sides and if both are willing to give it the fullest form, then sexual union can be the most joyous expression of that love- irrespective of whether you are an adult or an adolescent; married or unmarried and belong to the same or different caste or community.
The complication arises when the girl mistakes sex for commitment and the boy is on a scoring spree, moving on to his next conquest. If the girl is looking for commitment and does not get it after going all the way, she is likely to feel betrayed. She has to face all the more serious consequences if pregnancy comes along as a surprise. Like it or not, but India’s biggest murder mystery- the Aarushi Talwar case- has a strong component of teenage sexuality in it.
Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau’s recent observations in a Delhi court that legislators need to rethink on issues relating to the law on raising the age of consent for sex are extremely pertinent. While there has been considerable criticism over rising the age of consent from 16 to 18 in the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, judge Lau has urged legislators to create certain exceptions and make allowances for teenagers having sex below the legal age. She made these critical observations while acquitting a youth who was charged with kidnapping after he had eloped with his girlfriend due to opposition from their families.
As she observed, “The legal system cannot be used to punish youngsters in love who are on the verge of attaining majority and this court cannot ruin their lives by taking a hyper-technical view, especially so when the age gap between these youngsters is within acceptable limits and does not reflect an exploitative coercive situation.”
As a part of sex education, young girls need to be made aware of how to identify and deal smartly with emotional traps and minefields set by their boyfriends, friends and acquaintances who have sex on their mind. They need to be taught how to say “No” and when and where to draw the line. They need to be impressed upon that in the patriarchal Indian society where women largely have an inferior status, it is important for the woman to be self-confident, well educated, decently employed and financially secure. They need to be taught how to identify a good partner in life; what qualities to look out for and what qualities to value. They should be able to distinguish between love and lust- in themselves and others. They need to appreciate that at their age it is wiser to wait than rush into the act.
It is this wisdom and knowledge that will make the young Indian girl stronger and help her face the many storms that await in her life. Deciding when to have sex- before or after marriage- is then her personal decision and she is unlikely to go wrong.