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Adolescent Sexual Health

Adolescent Sexual Health: Parents, Teachers Need To Break The Cycle Of Silence Around Sex And Sexuality, Say Experts

When it comes to sexuality and sexual health, teenagers should be made equipped with information they need to navigate through the most natural aspect of human life, say experts

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Adolescent Sexual Health: Parents, Teachers Need To Break The Cycle Of Silence Around Sex And Sexuality, Say Experts
Highlights
  • Early sex education may prevent teen pregnancies: Experts
  • Elders need to ensure access to sexual healthcare to teenagers: Doctor
  • Gender And Consent Need To Be Taught During Early Childhood Itself: Experts

New Delhi: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It further says that sexual health is not merely about diseases but requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. However, in many societies, sexual health is still a very confidential topic. When it comes to children and teenagers, talking about sexuality and sexual health is nothing less than a taboo.

Also Read: Access To Sanitary Napkins Getting Worse During The COVID-19 Lockdown

Dr Veena Aggarwal, Gynaecologist, Consultant Women’s Health, Medtalks.in says that sexuality in children is natural and it is normal for them to be curious about sex and their sexual organs. She said,

Given the highly conservative attitudes towards sexual behaviour in India, adolescent sexual and reproductive health has been overlooked historically. Most children are not even taught the anatomically correct names for body parts. But, studies have shown that even in our traditional society, both rural and urban adolescents are engaging themselves in sexual activities. So why are we still keeping them ill-informed about the most natural aspect of life?

She further said that the low social and economic status of women and girls in the country and high rates of illiteracy and ignorance about sex among them make them particularly vulnerable to abuse, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs).

According to data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)- 4, the average age at which women in India have their first sex encounter is lower than that for men. The data shows, men are most likely to have had their first sexual intercourse at the age of 20-24, while for women, the peak age of first sex is at 15-19 years. The responses of men and women in the age group 25-49 years reveal that 11 per cent of women in this age group had sex before the age of 15 years while only 1 per cent of men in this age group had sexual intercourse before the age of 15. NFHS-4 report suggests that this difference is primarily on account of the difference in the ages at which they tend to get married. Thus, women tend to have sex at an earlier age because they get married at a younger age, as per NHFS-4.

Radhika Sharma, Director, Jeevan Ashram Sanstha (JAS) who has been working on raising awareness among teenagers on sexual health since last 10 years, highlighted that many men even as adults feel awkward talking about periods or female hygiene and many women feel ashamed about their bodies and bodily functions almost all of their lives. She added that both girls and boys face sexual and reproductive health issues as teenagers and as adults due to the stigma attached to it, they hesitate from seeking help. She said that sex education is a tool that can be used to ensure safe and healthy life for girls and boys.

Talking about the importance of sex education, Ms. Sharma said that while girls still get some information from their mothers during puberty and before marriage, boys don’t have anyone to get their queries answered.

Also Read: COVID-19 Majorly Impacted Women Health, Need Planning And Recovery Efforts: Population Foundation Of India

Education About Sex And Sexual Health Should Go Beyond Preaching Abstinence: Experts

According to Dr. Aggarwal, parents and children should have mutually respectful dialogues about sex and equip them with the knowledge to make informed and responsible decisions on the matters of sexuality. She said,

It can feel like an emotional rollercoaster at first, but being respectful and frank with children and teenagers could go a long way when it comes to the ‘Bird and Bees’ talk. It is the responsibility of the trusted adults to teach children about personal safety and how they can protect themselves from abuse and exploitation. Instead of telling them that sex is bad, empower them with understanding about their and their partner’s safety and about consequences of their actions. The teenagers should be counselled on how to manage peer influence because this is the age when their self-esteem is fragile and their ‘image’ is everything to them.

Sex Education May Prevent Teen Pregnancy

According to a report published by WHO in December 2018, in developing countries, approximately 16 million girls aged 15-19 years and 2.5 million girls under the age of 16 give birth each year. It also says that annually, nearly 3.9 million girls aged 15-19 years undergo unsafe abortions that ultimately end their lives. An adolescent mother (aged 10-19 years) faces a higher risk of various kinds of complications and infections than those in the age of 20 years and above, says WHO.

Dr. Aggarwal asserts that imparting information about sex to teenagers well before their first sexual encounter would help ensure sexual health of the young women and men and may prevent teen pregnancy. She said,

Studies have shown that early, frank and age-appropriate conversations about safe sex can result in fewer unwanted pregnancies. Boys and girls should be explained about early child bearing, safe abortions and how teenage pregnancy affects themselves, their families and their futures.

Access To Sexual Healthcare And Sexually Transmitted Disease

Ms. Sharma highlighted that teenagers, especially in rural areas and in families with low income, lack the access to sexual healthcare. Due to lack of information, teenagers are usually more concerned about pregnancy than Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and do not practice safe sex, she said. She further added that if, in case they do get an infection, fear and stigma among teenagers may result in delays in seeking treatment for STDs.

According to Srijana Bagaria, Co-founder, Pee Safe, in the recent years, the teenagers are increasingly becoming prey to STDs and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Aggarwal said that there is ample evidence from various researches to support the fact that sex education and awareness programmes have significantly reduced HIV risk in adolescents. She said,

According to the International Institute of Population Science data base, 45 per cent of women in India marry before 18 years of age and 22 per cent of them give birth to their first child even before they attain the legal age for marriage. The same report also shows that modern contraceptive usage is abysmally low ranging from a mere 12 per cent in Delhi to 2 per cent in Bihar in the age group of 15-19 years. This is further complicated by the rising cases of HIV/AIDS with the adolescent and young population comprising 34 per cent of the total AIDS burden. Poor infrastructure and lack of human resources to deal with adolescent specific reproductive health issues make the issue of sex education not only relevant but also important from a human rights perspective.

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Sexting And Interaction With Strangers Online

Exchanging explicit pictures with people is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon among teenagers, said Dr. Aggarwal. Therefore, lessons on cyber safety are very important, she said. She further added that children must use the internet under the supervision of an adult and should be taught not to engage with strangers online. She said,

Teenagers should be equipped with the information about online risks and dangers of social networking. They should practise sound judgement both online and offline. IT is important for their physical as well as mental health.

Gender And Consent Need To Be Taught During Early Childhood Itself

Parents and teachers should discuss consent with the children from a very young age, said Dr. Aggarwal. She further said that children from very young age should be taught to respect the word ‘no’ and use it without hesitation when they need to use it themselves. She further said,

Children from the age of 2 years should be taught about what parts of their body need to be kept private and to differentiate between good touch and bad touch.

She further said that children should be taught about respecting boundaries and about asking for permission.
Gender, is another concept that cannot be missed and needs to be explained to the youngsters from the very beginning, said Ms. Sharma. She said,

They should be taught about inclusiveness, body positivity and celebrating diversity. About gender identity, gender sensitivity and LGBTQ+ – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual and others on the spectrum.

Ms. Bagaria said that all parents and teachers should also be provided with gender-sensitive trainings and lessons on sexuality and sexual health so that they can be armed with the right knowledge that they can further impart to their children and teenagers, as per their age. She said,

Accept that your adolescents are discovering a whole new world. Empower them with right information and let them know that you are there when they need you.

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World

22,95,44,435Cases
19,20,52,504Active
3,27,83,741Recovered
47,08,190Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,95,44,435 and 47,08,190 have died; 19,20,52,504 are active cases and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 3:49 am.

India

3,35,31,498 26,964Cases
3,01,9897,586Active
3,27,83,741 34,167Recovered
4,45,768 383Deaths
In India, there are 3,35,31,498 confirmed cases including 4,45,768 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,01,989 and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,27,629 3,131

44,269 960

63,44,744 4,021

1,38,616 70

Kerala

45,39,926 15,768

1,61,765 5,813

43,54,264 21,367

23,897 214

Karnataka

29,69,361 818

13,769 617

29,17,944 1,414

37,648 21

Tamil Nadu

26,48,688 1,647

16,993 9

25,96,316 1,619

35,379 19

Andhra Pradesh

20,40,708 1,179

13,905 483

20,12,714 1,651

14,089 11

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,693 13

194 0

16,86,612 13

22,887

West Bengal

15,62,710 537

7,741 69

15,36,291 592

18,678 14

Delhi

14,38,556 39

400 21

14,13,071 18

25,085

Odisha

10,21,216 462

4,844 103

10,08,226 560

8,146 5

Chhattisgarh

10,05,120 26

297 0

9,91,260 26

13,563

Rajasthan

9,54,275 12

99 8

9,45,222 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,25,751 14

133 0

8,15,536 14

10,082

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,410 8

90 6

7,81,803 14

10,517

Haryana

7,70,754 8

328 12

7,60,618 20

9,808

Bihar

7,25,907 6

60 9

7,16,188 15

9,659

Telangana

6,63,906 244

4,938 53

6,55,061 296

3,907 1

Punjab

6,01,359 36

304 3

5,84,554 37

16,501 2

Assam

5,98,864 441

5,081 97

5,87,970 338

5,813 6

Jharkhand

3,48,139 14

65 10

3,42,941 4

5,133

Uttarakhand

3,43,405 12

249 18

3,35,765 29

7,391 1

Jammu And Kashmir

3,28,214 145

1,450 11

3,22,345 154

4,419 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,17,403 263

1,715 99

2,12,033 162

3,655 2

Goa

1,75,690 107

886 76

1,71,507 29

3,297 2

Puducherry

1,25,618 101

922 55

1,22,864 46

1,832

Manipur

1,18,870 197

2,174 9

1,14,861 203

1,835 3

Tripura

83,956 51

353 7

82,794 44

809

Mizoram

82,815 1,355

15,363 223

67,184 1,127

268 5

Meghalaya

79,817 150

1,878 18

76,558 167

1,381 1

Chandigarh

65,195 7

44 3

64,333 4

818

Arunachal Pradesh

54,190 64

413 3

53,504 60

273 1

Sikkim

31,014 43

627 27

30,007 70

380

Nagaland

30,959 52

470 3

29,832 46

657 3

Ladakh

20,743 6

144 6

20,392

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,670

0 0

10,666

4

Lakshadweep

10,360 1

9 1

10,300

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,607 7

17 4

7,461 3

129

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