The NACO website says, “Most young people become sexually active during adolescence. In the absence of right guidance and information at this stage they are more likely to have multi-partner unprotected sex with high risk behaviour groups… “
With increasing exposure to television and internet sex education does not imply teaching kids about sex, which knowledge they will pick up anyways, but for many proponents of sex education it definitely means teaching them about what safe, healthy and acceptable sexual behaviour is.
If we were to go by the data published by WHO, sex education should be imparted to children who are 12 years and above. It has also been seen that it is the age group of 12 to 19 years that counts for some 34% of the HIV infected persons in the world.
Recent literature on adolescents have documented that irrespective of being relatively healthy period of life, adolescents often engage in the range of risky and adventurous behaviours that might influence their quality of health and probability of survival in both short and long term over the life course. These includes early pregnancy, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and sexual abuse and violence. Pregnancy related problems comprise a leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15–19 years, mainly due to unsafe abortions and pregnancy complications. However, the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and youth are poorly understood and grossly underappreciated owing to limitation of scientific evidence compounded with the unpreparedness of public health system, which may jeopardize the initiatives to advance the health and well-being of adolescents.
Adolescents and youth in India experience several negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes such as early and closely spaced pregnancy, unsafe abortions, STI, HIV/AIDS, and sexual violence at alarming scale. One in every five woman aged 15–19 years experience childbearing before 17 years of age that are often closely spaced; risk of maternal mortality among adolescent mothers was twice as high as compared to mothers aged 25–39 years. Importantly, adolescents and youth comprise 31 percent of AIDS burden in India. Furthermore, multiple socioeconomic deprivations further increase the magnitude of health problems for adolescents. This limits their opportunity to learn and access the appropriate health care services.
The WHO report (2003) on family life, reproductive health and population education documented that promotion of family life/sex education has resulted in delayed age of entering into sexual relationship, reduced number of partners, increased use of safer sex and contraception, and other positive behaviour. It was further noted that sex education in schools did not encourage young people to have sex at earlier age; rather it delays the start of sexual activity and encourages young people to have safer sex. However, both the critiques and proponents of introducing family life/sex education in Indian schools propagate the analogous ideology of ‘sexual restraint’ i.e., delaying the initiation of sexual activity among adolescents before marriage, which may also help to curtail the menace of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and restrict the pace of population growth. A recent study from Nigeria presents paramount significance of providing sexual education to youth that helped them to develop critical thinking and insights on range of family life/sexual issues like premarital sex and pregnancy, abortion, teacher-student relationships and lesbianism. Another study in Indonesia suggests the mixed viewpoint on the pros and cons of sex education among youth . Proper information about sexuality should be provided to youth to help them grow healthy and responsible. A study conducted in Venezuela highlighted the importance of imparting sex education to youth, as it helped to prevent adolescent pregnancy, abortion, HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse. A study in India revealed that majority of school teachers was in favour of imparting sex education to school children . Fourteen years of age was considered to be the most appropriate for imparting sex education by 28.6 percent of school teachers.