Although sexual health is a time-tested revolutionary concept of wellbeing, thanks to the misinformation and disinformation about sexual health in India, because of which we perceive discussing sexual health has more downsides than upsides.
In some parts of India, discussing sexual health is taboo, even in new-age India. Sexual health statistics in India reveal that because of inadequate exposure to sexual health education, rural India witnesses high deaths, especially among women, we could have salvaged some lives.
Sexual Health in India Not Openly Discussed
We refrain from discussing sexual health topics, citing reasons, like our values and our upbringing do not allow us to talk openly about Sexual Health. Our culture and religion, indigenous status, spirituality, people around us, personal experiences, and societal expectations prevent us from reaping the benefits of having sexual health education in India.
Sexual health definition documented by WHO
How many of us know the definition of sexual health?
If you consider the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition, you find that there is nothing wrong at all in discussing sexual health and sexuality in open forums. According to WHO, sexual health is a mental, physical, and social state of well-being of your sexuality.
Optimum Sexual health concepts
Sexual Health, if discussed in India at large, can bring in far-reaching reforms through its positive sexual health benefits that include:
- Caring for sexual health promotes well-being
- Promotes a congenial environment where there is no gender-based discrimination and violence
- Uphold the values of Human rights that empower citizens to observe rights to sexual health, sexuality, and sex education
- Must follow and practice throughout the individual’s lifespan and must not be confined only to the reproductive years
Benefits of having Sexual Health discussions in open forums
From time immemorial, there have been uncountable pregnancy-related deaths in India because of the lack of knowledge to deal with early age pregnancy complications. It is still a cause of high female deaths in rural India. We can salvage many lives if we create awareness of sexuality in rural India.
Sexual health prepares a pregnant woman with safety precautions during pregnancy. It also protects you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections like HIV/STD/STI. The knowledge of sexual health enables you to have protected and safe sex with your legitimate or illegitimate partner.
How to achieve sound sexual health in India?
A country like India can achieve its sexual health awareness goals, by leveraging:
Lack of education is a major barrier to attain sexual health. We need to know about sexual health risks and make favorable choices for ourselves. There is no harm to be sexually active. You should know the limits, restrictions, and dangers associated with it. To avoid risking lives, we should know safe practices to safeguard our sexual health. We can achieve this if we include sex education in the school curriculum during the last years.
Effective communication is imperative and can cause a fundamental change in the upliftment of sexual health conditions in India. Communicating via online channels by promoting ‘sexual health physician near me’, using the internet, social media, YouTube, and Google promotion can go a long way to improve the country’s sexual health. Sexual health awareness via all-pervasive mediums of communication is the key to empower citizens across all strata to protect their own and their family’s sexual health condition.
Discussing Sexual Health in the family
Sexual Health is an integral part of our overall health and well-being, yet parents do not discuss sexual health with their children who are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.
Adult children, who suffer from sexual ailments and diseases, hesitate to strike a conversation with parents or medical counselors about their conditions because of the stigma attached. Most of us feel shy to seek help from health counselors who can help us get more insights into the cure. The sexual health or sexuality discussions need to normalize like any other discussion in civic society.
Steps to start a meaningful conversation on sexual health within a family
Parents must feel comfortable to discuss their and their children’s sexual health and sexuality with health specialists with no biases or prejudices. Counselors and health specialists may encourage parents to start a conversation with their going to be adult soon children.
Parents talking to their adult son or daughter may consider the following approach of conversation on sexuality or sexual health.
6 parental attributes to start a conversation about sexual health with their young adult children
Here is the parents’ checklist before they engage their children in a discussion on sexual health.
Asses you and your children’s’ comfort
Start by assessing the comfort by discussing various related topics as an icebreaker and identify the biases they may have. If you are uncomfortable and shaky about carrying a discussion on sex and sexuality, your children will be too.
Make your children comfortable
It is the responsibility of both participants to create rapport to make each other comfortable before asking sensitive and personal questions. Help your children to create a rapport with you at the outset.
Encourage to use neutral and inclusive terms
Use more neutral and generic relationship terms without being specific. We recommend terms like a partner, sex education, and sexual health in the discussion. Posing questions in a non-judgmental manner would go a long way to determine a successful diagnosis of your children’s sexual health condition.
Avoid assumptions and categorization
Avoid assuming things or displaying preconceived notions or ideas about your children’s likings, preferences, orientation, age, appearance, or any other sensitive matters related to his or her life history so far. You need to assess their sexual orientation, behavior, and gender identity without being judgemental.
Control your overt reactions
Do not react even if you are embarrassed or uncomfortable. Try not to push your thoughts and ideas on your children when discussing sexuality. Your own body language and posture during the counseling sessions is the key to end up in a successful outcome.
Be patient and prepared to rephrase your questions if needed
You may build some premises instead of directly jumping into the question-asking mode. You may start by briefly explaining the pretext on which you will carry out the conversation. You may help children with more time if at any point they seem to have felt offended or reluctant to answer certain questions.
All these procedures will lead to a successful meeting outcome. Share an accepted behavior with your children to avoid confusion. If you cannot understand the language or terminologies, your children are using, it is better to ask than assume. Avoid having an “I know it all” approach.
Vocabulary inadequacy to describe sexuality in India
Sexual health is not a priority in India, not even in government policies. The primary reason for not having a policy or promoting Sexual Health in India is the inadequacy of vocabulary to discuss or describe a sexuality or sexual health without offending the community. This has pushed the topic further into the backseat. Indian society still does not see the discussion point in a friendly light. People of India are still in doubt whether discussing sexual health will cause the wellbeing of their children.
The Lacuna that engulfs the Indian Sanity about sexual health
- As young Indians, we do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education.
- Discussing sex, sexual health, and sexuality is taboo in Indian society, even among couples.
- Sexual health is not a recognized subject in the medical curriculum as a part of clinical medicine.
- The Indian education system does not endorse sexual health as a curriculum in the syllabus.
- We have conveniently kept sexual health topics outside the purview of counseling training programs.
- Unlike developed countries, we have not aligned the laws to protect reproductive rights in India. In fact, there is no specific law to protect sexual reproduction in India.
The Bottom Line
Discussing sexual health in India is imperative considering the amount of mishandled pregnancies in India. There is widespread ignorance among young girls in society about their sexual reproductive rights resulting in countless deaths of young women in rural India.
Besides premature ignorance-driven pregnancy-related deaths, HIV, STD, and STI in Indian society are rampant and driving the highest number of deaths in India. It is time for all of us to speak up and holler about the iron curtain that stands in between our right to sexual health and open discussions.
We need to break the looming ignorance and misinformation about sexual health, leveraging the power of education and communication. Every Indian, regardless of social status, deserves to garner sexual health awareness and wellbeing with no prejudices. It is time to give a shout out in recognition to those who are relentlessly spreading sexual awareness and sex education in India against all odds.