A recent study highlighted the grim scenario of sexual health education in rural and urban India as the rate of premarital sex amongst youth increased. According to the survey, rural youth are twice as likely to indulge in premarital sex compared to their urban counterparts, where sex education is rarely accessible. Statistical figures reveal that about 21 percent males and 4 percent females from rural areas admitted to have had pre-marital sex against an urban figure of 11 percent males and 2 percent females.
According to health experts, cases of premarital sex amongst rural youth have increased but awareness regarding sexual health remains, so far, a thoroughly neglected issue. They feel that educational health programme on the issue is desperately needed.
Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), a public health institute conducted this survey to include 55,000 males and females from about1.7 lakh households in states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, their ages ranging from 15 to 29.
IIPS researchers found that found that a sizeable young population is completely unaware of dangers of unsafe sex including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.
In the state of Maharashtra, 7,570 young men and women from 23,000 households were surveyed. Findings suggest that out of five only two were aware that pregnancy can happen in the first sexual encounter. One–fourth of the females admitted that their pregnancies were either unwanted or untimely.
Sex education received from health programme or schools were found to be in just about 13 percent males and 26 percent females. Shockingly, only one amongst seven had heard of the term STI.
Senior associate at the Population Council Shireen Jejeebhoy said: “We are very concerned that while rural and urban youth are having unsafe sex, our programmes are still discussing whether or not we should include sex education in the curriculum.”
She stressed that health authorities must make sex education available to all rural and urban youth as premarital sexual encounters have seen a rise and the unaware youth tend to indulge in unsafe sex more often.
Survey team was shocked to find that basic facts were also poorly understood or known amongst the youth, which calls for an immediate action. According to Ms. Jejeebhoy, premarital sex was always considered a western phenomenon but the findings prove this wrong.
As many as 90 percent youth were desirous to know more about the subject but did not know who to approach. Teachers were found to be the most encouraging way to receive sex education rather than doctors or parents for the youth.
Usha Ram from the IIPS quoted that the government’s proposal to render sex education did not get a good response. The National Rural Health Mission recognized the necessity to set up district-level adolescent-friendly health clinics in year 2005 for the first time.
Single men and women asking for condoms is still very unacceptable. As sex education remains a cultural taboo in the country, particularly in the rural areas, there is a need to sensitize parents and teachers regarding ills of unprotected sex, think IIPS researchers.