Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bridging Gaps – Rapid Changes & Sex Education

In the various articles I written I have been emphasizing the importance of culture, not exactly the narrow assertion of a Hindu identity but a strategic affirmation of plural identities. It is necessary to state here that the so called Hindu identity is not the authentic identity of what we call Bharatiyata. The original cultural identities of this land mass ought to be those that are aligned with the culture of the first citizens Adivasis of this region. Sadly, today they are called Tribal and have been marginalized and their cultures devalued and we are what Sanjeev Sanyal calls a group of people defined by a memory of ‘genetic cocktail.’
Hence, it would be appropriate not to address the question of the content of the Indian identity but the actual need to respond to the impact on society due to a fast changing economic environment and the growth of market economy.
With the opening up of markets, integral to our economic growth, it is necessary to monitor how the hard economic and developmental policy decisions have changed and affected our cultural and social landscape, especially the young population of the country.
India has been part was always due to international trade on the cross roads of cultural interchanges owing to its trade relations with other lands since early times. However, then the influences that affected social behavior were gradual. Today, thanks to technology and communication, information both visual and experiential is available at the click of a button, and it is unstoppable.
The gap between changes brought by economy, information technology and the time taken to impact society, especially minds of an impressionable young population has narrowed down leading to social and behavioral changes that may not be healthy for an individual or society as a whole. One of the impacts of imbalance in social behavior has been seen in the behavior pattern of school going children. For example, Parents and teachers are finding it extremely difficult to check the proliferation of substance abuse, pornography viewing and projecting oneself through ‘selfies’. The young are today both confident and arrogant, and this puts parents and teachers in a helpless position. Young children spend much more time in the virtual world and sometimes curiosity drives them to explore the world of pornography. At the same time the breakdown of the gender divide, especially in urban areas has led to more interactions between boys and girls.
These two facts taken together cannot be ignored and the only way to cope with the changes appears to me to be sex education. It is the need of the time taking into account the continuous invasion of visual media via advertising and movies which advocate and motivate aspirations for a ‘high’ material life in our lives often through highly suggestive advertisements.
The recent view of Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan to ban sex education could not have come at a more inappropriate moment, since it is tools such as a well-planned sex education program, inform and assist the young about the implication of irresponsible behaviour as well as advising them on the precautions that they need to take.
Sex education can be imparted through formal and informal channels. The South Africans encouraged writers of children’s books to include stories about HIV Aids since that is a very major concern for their country. These stories were both inspirational and informative. The well-known authority on children’s literature in India Manorama Jafa returned from South Africa after attending a meeting of the jury for an International Award for Children’s literature. She said the attitude of that country, recognizing that addressed the problem of HIV Aids inspired her to write a young adult novel published by the National Book Trust titled ‘Mein hun Sona!’ “I am Sona”.
Neither the changing economic environment and ‘development’ or vikas strategies nor the world of IT will stop. That they will have a direct impact on social and cultural landscapes must be recognized. Cultural policies need to keep pace with these changes to avoid social chaos especially among the enormous young population we have in our country. Imposing restrictions or substituting only traditional tools like yoga and lessons on morality or spiritualism will not work.These traditional means in addition to new tools such as sex education needs be incorporated in education. A strong move to designed value added course on sex education is imperative. While the new government is looking and rightly so, hard issues such as energy, inflation, foreign policy and resuscitating the economy, there is an equally urgent need to address cultural policy to over view the fragile weft and warp of cultural and societal behavior.