Changemakers: Rethinking Sex Education in India with Reproductown

22 Mar

Tired of our teachers’ embarrassment, fed up of the birds and bees narrative, we decided to take matters in our own hands.

Rethinking Sex Education in India with Reproductown

Sex education is India’s Achilles heel.   In an education system that has always prioritized numerical investigation and engineering studies, public health has often been overlooked. Despite the importance of sex education, people find it mortifying to discuss this taboo subject. In avoiding it, we shame and stigmatize our own bodies, and by extension our  own selves.

In low-income schools, there is no concept of sex education. Even the much-lauded private schools in India tackle the subject very clumsily. They start sex education late and then  turn it into a covert operation. No one is supposed to know you are learning about sex. It’s a secret. Don’t ask questions; they won’t be answered.  With younger students, teachers get up on stage in all black and draw a vagina with chalk on their body to teach girls about their menstrual cycle. Older students are made to color female and male parts on huge drawings of bodies to learn about reproduction.

In contrast, the American education system provides a list of 16 recommended topics for sex-ed programs in most states. These topics range from basic information on the transmission and prevention of HIV and other, to critical communication and decision-making skills. Where are these specific terms, processes and precautions in the Indian education system?

As high school students, we wanted to combat the discomfort around sex by it. So, we founded Reproductown, an organization that produces educational content to teach low-income students about the A-Z’s of sex education. Our goal was to lighten the somber mood around sex education. To do so, we created stories with animated versions of ourselves, called ‘Prithvi the Penis’ and ‘Suyash the Sperm’. We created three issues of Reproductown: one on menstrual education, one on sexual assault, and one on reproduction.

When we approached schools with our books, we were continually denied. They never gave us reasons. It couldn’t be the language barrier– our books had English and Hindi translations. Or the appeal– we had put everything in color to ensure attentiveness. The truth was, everyone was far too scared of the social consequences  of discussing the reality of sex and reproduction. After several refusals with various unanswered questions, we found our first home at an NGO called KatKatha, who agreed to use our books in their curriculum.

Could you elaborate more on what these social consequences are? Your work would shine through more if people knew more about what you were trying to change.

I think you should write this part after describing the situation at low-income schools. You could write “we approached both private schools and public schools”, then detail the responses received from both types of schools.

But the challenge isn’t over. Sex education has always taken a backseat in India, and our books are not going to change that overnight. People in our country usually keep these issues locked behind a metal door. Therefore, before trying to change the education system, we need people to feel comfortable speaking about sexual health and understand that it is a great responsibility to give teens the right kind of knowledge about sex.

Proper sex education will help young people with their self-esteem, work towards healthy life goals, and make responsible decisions about their bodies. Gaining greater acceptance for comprehensive sex education is a slow process, but starting somewhere small will eventually lead us towards a significant change in mind-sets in future.

By Suyash and Prithvi

Suyash Bhatia is a Grade 12 student at the Vasant Valley School, studying Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, and English. As a budding sculptor, he is passionate about Mechanical Engineering, and is always seeking ways to make things more efficient – be it automobile designs or Reproductown’s sex ed curriculum!

Prithvi Singh is a Grade 12 student at the Vasant Valley School, studying Economics, Business Studies, Mathematics, Accounts, and English. He is passionate about the economics of healthcare, and asking the easy questions with tough answers – why is there disparity in healthcare across income levels, across nations, across gender and racial metrics? What can we do to make healthcare more accessible in resource-poor nations?


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