Another blow to sex awareness as I&B Ministry bans the advertisements of condoms

By: Sugat Srivastav

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry on Monday issued an advisory directing television channels against telecasting condom advertisements between 6 am and 10 pm, attributing the decision to complaints that some channels aired the ads repeatedly and that they were unsuitable for viewing.

The government said its decision was based on rules stating that no advertisements which “endanger the safety of children or create in them any interest in unhealthy practices” should be allowed. It also cited regulations that prohibit “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes”.

India’s tryst with sex education had always cruise into jeopardy. According to a circular issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) back in 2005, it had chalked out an Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education (ARSH) project. Several states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Goa, earlier banned a course on adolescent education programme as suggested by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The National Education Policy of 2016 draft mentions the significance of “sex education in schools for adolescent for safety measures”. The implementation is pending.

On the pretext of ‘Indian values’ and ‘log kya kahenge’, children becoming victims of sex abuse. According to the survey conducted by humanitarian aid organization World Vision India, it was found that about 50% of the children, in the survey, were victim of sex abuse. As per NCRB, 36,022 children were sexually abused in 2016 alone. These are the recorded cases as a huge percentage of the cases do not get the similar voice.

Teenage pregnancies on rise. As per United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report released in 2013, about 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth to children.  Teenage pregnancies occur with varying rates across regions and countries and age groups. A worrying figure shows that in the period between 2000 and 2013, when the UNFPA report was released, with 11,875,182 pregnancies, India topped the chart of 10 countries with the greatest numbers of women aged between 20 and 24 who gave birth before their age was 18.

According to the study published in the Symposium – Pediatric Dermatoses in 2010, the prevalence of pediatric STD cases reported from Delhi in the years 1995-2000 has ranged from 0.82% to 3.4%. The prevalence, however, observed from another center from the capital in late eighties was 16%. A recent study from Rohtak, North India has shown a prevalence of 1.02% and another from Ahmedabad (Western India) has reported 1.98% prevalence of pediatric STDs in years 2002-2005.

These figures are likely to be only a tip of the iceberg, as many infections in children remain undiagnosed due to failure to recognize the problem in this age group, stigma attached to them, asymptomatic nature of the infections and fear of the perpetrator. Furthermore, many healthcare professionals often do not screen children for these infections, even after revelation of sexual abuse. This may be due to lack of awareness of the problem or to non-availability of diagnostic tests for screening.

As we can see, India requires proper sex education. The burst in population, the notorious number of sex abuse cases, the swelling teenage pregnancy and the ascent of STI cases in children firmly proves that. Though the eroticism is quite high in the ads but still it opens the window for the child to ask sex related questions from the elders. The sudden increase in curiosity is treated with divergence from the topic as the child is sent to fetch water or do something else. In school, the human reproduction chapter is ‘skimmed’ through and arising doubts were condemned and scolded for being ‘naughty’. It’s time we leave the refuge of conservatism and ‘Indian values’ and focus on pragmatism.

What do you think?

Written by Sharad Maverick

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