Exposing children to sex education …err did you read vulgarity?

18 May 2013 | Shruti Kohli | NEW DELHI


This year’s CBSE question paper for class X had this ‘complete the paragraph’ question:


This is the last period of the day and I am waiting for the bell to ring…


One girl at a school in Delhi completed it thus:


This is the last period of the day and I am waiting for the bell to ring. Just then, a policeman walks in and approaches my classmate. We gradually discover that this classmate is the friend of an older youngster who has been caught by the police for acid attack on his girlfriend. The story goes that the victim had refused to marry her lover due to his bad habits and was preparing to marry someone else.


The general reaction, to such an answer, from parents and teachers (I have met) has been that the recent “openness” in reporting issues on violence against women has had an adverse effect on children. Why else would a girl in her early teens have such wild imaginations? How else would she know anything about such ghastly acts? How else will our children know that sex is immoral?


I am not surprised at the reaction. We live in a shocked society. You sneeze and you leave it shocked to the marrow. Our teenagers, who should technically have gender and sex education in their syllabus, shock their elders just by “openly” uttering the word “sex”. Just let a teenager tell their parents or teachers that they vouch for sex education in their curriculum and wait to see the reaction on the faces around. A girl talking about this runs all the chances of having her morality questioned.


Last month, one of the movies I watched in a theatre was Zero Dark Thirty. I had a couple sitting in the row behind me. They had three children. The eldest looked like about eight years old. The violence that was shown in the movie, was not supposed to be seen by such young people. But parents don’t mind! Nothing seems to have changed since I watched The Passion of the Christ ages ago. People had brought their children along. I wonder what kind of dreams those children must have had that night after watching so much blood and butchering on a larger than life frame! Then, I saw children at a weekend show of Basic Instinct 2! That was actually unbelievable.


Back home, in their drawing rooms and bedrooms, children watch slapstick comedies of Ajay Devgan and Govinda full of vulgar and sexist dialogues. They watch movies like Delhi Belly and Pyaar ka Punchnama which are packed with classiest cuss words. And don’t we know our cuss words so oozing with femininity?


They watch serials, music videos, and advertisements which appear to be selling flesh (read female flesh) rather than the product they are supposed to. Someone somewhere may have thought that something must have changed at least in the echelons of authority that are expected to be radiating responsibility and accountability for what happens in the corridors of commoners. But the recent Ford advertisement for its hatchback Figo model has blown off the house of cards built at the top of a windy hill.


If we were not in the hangover of the post-rape protests triggered by the Dec 16 incident, no one would have raised an eyebrow about the blatant commercials which show scantily clad women gagged, bound and stuffed in the trunk of the car to show how spacious it is. Then, children would have seen these ads on hoardings, in newspapers, magazines and all of that…without any objection from parents.


I was just trying to make our double standards known. Parents don’t object to their children being exposed to vulgarity and violence. In fact, they even promote it. I have come across parents of adolescents and early teenage boys joking about their sons making passes at girls in their circles. No, no, we are still against serious love affairs, at any age. We just joke about our sons flirting with girls. That’s it!


Vulgarity is okay. But our children should not know about violence against women. In fact, it should be the other way around. Children must know the reality though a bit more methodically. Rather than just reading about them in newspapers and hearing about them on TV, these should be a part of their curriculum. No matter how toned down media reports are, they tend to get sensational in the course of adding masala to make them saleable.


A well-designed, intelligent gender course is an urgent need for schools. While the authorities should work on creating appropriate high quality material, parents and teachers should show enthusiasm to accept it well. Schools should hire teachers with relevant degrees to teach these courses. There should also be a course constructed on the “train-the-trainer” model to train teachers for better acceptance of these courses. Parents should also be included in these courses.


Unless this much is done to begin with, we will never be able to get rid of those scorns, or even smirks at times, which automatically come to people’s faces when they are talking about the behaviour of a rape victim. I recently met a woman who could not control her laughter while telling me about “the weird behaviour of a rape victim for months after the incident.” I looked at the teenage victim and could not control my tears.

shruti kohli

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What to Do!

If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.

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