This article is written by Likhita Agrawal & Vatsalya Pankaj, 3rd Year, B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) & 3rd Year, B.A.LL.B. (Hons.), National Law University, Nagpur & National Law University, Nagpur.
Sex education was initiated in Europe around the 1950s and it evolved in four distinct phases. Originally, the purpose was to spread awareness about sexual activities and to control unintended pregnancies, and this continued till the 1970s. In the ten years that followed, there was a focus on the prevention of venereal diseases. The third phase emphasized curbing sexual abuse and finally, in the 2000s the focus shifted to issues such as sexism, violence, and cyberbullying. Thus, sex education has kept evolving depending upon the needs of Society and the existing sociological environment.
A large portion of the population is ignorant about the various facets of Sex Education. It includes different notions like human reproduction, sexual hygiene and health, mechanics of sex, and aberrant sexual behaviour. The necessity of the concerned topic is also paramount for dealing with problems that plague Indian society today, such as population control, sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, modern contraceptives and infertility. Homophobia too can be altered by using sex education as a tool. Sex education in a way can promote an anti-discriminatory approach to sexual and gender diversity which is important today.
In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development with the National AIDS Control Organization had commenced the Adolescence Education Programme with the view of providing adequate sex education to students of secondary and senior secondary education in 2005. At that time, it was opposed on the grounds that such education would lead to the abolition of traditional, cultural thoughts and would divert the youth towards Western Ideology. Despite this, sex education was implemented in schools. But sex education goes beyond sex; notions like an ethical approach to sex and consent should be introduced which did not exist in the 2005 Model. Here, an attempt has been made to analyse the status of Sex Education as the right of an individual and how it can be improved in India.
Sex Education as a Right
The main arguments against Sex Education are Parental Control & Obscenity. Parents have the responsibility toward the health and well-being of their child and thus, are entitled to some form of control. Hence, there are times when parents have objected to Sex Education, calling it inappropriate for children. However, if we take the example of the United States, where the need for Sex Education was felt much before us; US Courts have often allowed for Sex education stating that it was for the benefit of public health and well-being. Further, in the landmark case of Prince v. Mass the US Supreme Court held that,
“The State’s interest in the health of its children outweighs claims based upon religious freedom and the right of parental control.”
There is an exigency for such legal interpretations in India. The State has a responsibility towards all of its citizens, and the primary intention of amending the Constitution to include Article 21A in the Constitution of India was to ensure the growth and development of Citizens. The benefits of Sex Education are well documented, it can help in preventing the spread of STDs, make children more sensitive to Sexual Issues, and provide for more responsible citizens. In the case of Mr. X. v. Hospital Z., the court had cautioned that it couldn’t assist in the spreading of “dreadful diseases such as HIV”. The Court had allowed for the Right to Privacy of an individual who had the disease to be set aside, if it meant that a person (not having the disease) could be saved from contracting it. Through this judgment, the Court had highlighted the responsibility of both individuals and Governmental bodies in the prevention of the spread of STDs including HIV. Thus, while children are taught about such diseases and their preventive measures, then the questions of Obscenity & Parental Rights should not be raised and furthermore, adults have a responsibility to make them aware of the same.
Further, while referring to the point of Obscenity, US courts have often held that Sex education while being informative is not obscene. Arguendo, when the subject is regarding the human body and its proper care, then it should not be considered obscene. Additionally, the definition of obscenity changes as per age and is subjective. The adequacy of Sex Education for a student in 12th grade and one in 6th grade cannot be the same. The purpose behind Sex Education is to gradually make the students aware of their bodies and how best to take proper care of it.
Further, the Constitution of India guarantees the Right to free and compulsory education for children between 6-14 years of age. Even though Education has been recognized as a Fundamental Right, the curriculum is still influenced by societal norms regarding what should, and should not be taught. Thus, Sex Education is something that has faced the brunt of outdated societal norms and is rarely taught in schools. However, relying on Western Jurisprudence and Constitutional principles, a case may be made for mandatory Sex Education in Schools in India.
Ameliorations and suggestions
In our country, generally, school teachers who teach Biology teach Sex Education. However, they are unable to deal with the current issues and challenges. Discussions on topics of a sexual nature are not common, and are considered taboo in our society. This serves to be a hindrance in the path of adequate sexual education. The WHO came up with a proposition to provide training to sexual educators in Europe in 2017 and evolved a new notion titled “Training matters: A framework for core competencies of sexuality educators.” It stressed upon the need of training for quality sex education and provided for three components for proficiency in this field: Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge.
In India, it seems like while educators usually possess knowledge, they fall short in the remaining aspects. This makes them to unable to explain concepts and hence fails the students. For the purpose to be accomplished, students must be made comfortable, so that they may raise their doubts without hesitation. For the generation of a free and open environment, training is essential and hence proper training must be provided to teachers who are recruited for educating students about Sex Education to ensure the success of the program.
Sex Education in schools is limited up to reproduction, menstruation cycles, and venereal diseases. It should be expanded to include sexual hygiene, sexual health, and sexuality, aiming to maintain the sexual health of individuals because these are important in the present era. World Health Organization defines Sexual Health as,
“a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled”.
Furthermore, reliance may be placed on the guidelines issued by UN agencies such as UNESCO and UNFPA titled “International technical guidance on sexuality education”. The guidelines highlight the importance of values such as equality, respect, acceptance, and tolerance. Through the guidelines, it is clear that students need to be taught to respect the physical dignity and integrity of others, which would result in fewer sexual offences. There must also be a realization of self-individual reverence regarding their own bodies.
The seed of Consent which is the most important element for any sort of sexual involvement must be sown in the students. Schools must imbibe students with the panacea of almost all sexual crimes which is equality. It has been observed that women have less control in sexual relationships, and this is a huge problem all over the world in violence against women. Another significant point is that schools must have a framework to guide the students on tackling sexual offences like bullying and violence. As adolescents are often unwilling to discuss problems, schools should provide facilities like counselling and psychiatry for students to have discussions about their Sexual Health.
For making the above-discussed points effective, the Government may launch a separate course on the said notion. Teachers should be employed by the School Management only after completing their training. The Government should also come up with separate guidelines so that the goals of Sex Education may be achieved. Also, as society changes, the difficulties faced by the students’ change, thus, regular periodical feedback must be taken from the students.
Sex Education is interlinked with Sexual Health and is one of the essential ingredients of Reproductive Rights, which is an important aspect of human rights. The arguments against it seem to be quite archaic and do not fit into today’s worldview. Based on the Principles of Constitutional Law and the interpretations of Western Courts, it is safe to say that Sex Education is not against Public Morality and is indeed necessary. India has lagged behind in Sex Education and the time is ripe to catch up with the world. Further, the existing methodology adopted by schools in India lacks in many different aspects, and hence, reforms are needed in terms of training and a precise curriculum. It would help in the prevention of sexual crimes, violence and would promote the overall well-being of individuals by imbibing important values within them.
 Patricia G. Tjaden, Pornography and Sex Education, 24 J. Sex Res., 208,209 (1988).
 S. Anandhi, Sex Education Conundrum, 42 E.P.W. 3367, 3369 (2007).
 Daniel Monk, Sex, Education and Children’s Rights: Recent Local and Global Perspectives, 2000 Educ. L.J. 207 (2000).
 Hopkins v. Hamden Board of Education 289 A.2d 914, 922 (1970); Cornwell v. State Board of Education, 314 F. Supp. 340, 344 (1969).
 Prince v. Mass, 321 U.S. 158 (1944).
 Kelly Percival & Emily Sharpe, Sex Education in Schools, 13 Geo. J. Gender & L. 425 (2012).
 Mr. X. v. Hospital Z, (2000) 9 SCC 439: AIR 1999 SC 495.
 Beyer v. Kinzler, 383F. Supp. 1164 (1974); Unitarian Church West v. McConnell 337 F. Supp. 1252, 1260; See Also McConnell v. Unitarian Church West, 416 U.S. 932 (1974).
 India Const., art. 21A.
 James L. Malfetti & Arline M. Rubin, Sex Education: Who Is Teaching The Teachers? 17(2) The Fam. Coo’tor 110 (1968).