Sex education is a powerful tool for achieving gender equality and good health. As sex education is the act of giving information to people about different types of sexual orientations, students, regardless of their different genders or sexual preferences, should be well-informed about sex-related issues so that they can understand why each sexual identity is part of our society
The word "sex" is still a taboo and not used overtly across the world.
The connotation associated with this single syllable word is that it is "dirty" thereby limiting it to an act of sin or something to be ashamed of. It's not shocking that "sex" is one of the most googled words today among teenagers. Due to the intrinsic cultural values, open discussion on sex is limited even in the developed countries, let alone a least developed country like Nepal.
Moreover, due to the easy accessibility of the Internet, young students are likely to be entrapped, misguided and psychologically impacted by the excessive amount of sex-related content on the Internet. Due to teenagers' increasing craving for pornography, sex-related crimes, adultery and LGBTQ issues, the topic of sex education has been in the limelight recently.
Unlike the misconception that sex education is about motivating students towards deriving pleasure from intercourse at a young age, it's about cultivating awareness about the importance of preventing them from being a victim of sexual harassment and help them change their misconceptions about sex.
Sex education can help students know the exact meaning of sex, sexual policies of the government, its benefits and negative effects, and necessities in human lives.
In the digital era, it's insensible to restrain our students from accessing the Internet. Instead, we need to teach our young students how to use it wisely and systematically. After acquiring sex education, students are expected to deal with sexual issues like pornography rather than be obsessed with it. Sex education at school helps protect the youth from risky sexual behaviours.
For example, many young Nepali students may not be able to understand how they're being sexually abused by their seniors, teachers, administrative staff, relatives or neighbours.
So, sex education is a necessity for their physical, social and psychological well-being.
Sex education is a powerful tool for achieving gender equality and good health. As sex education is the act of giving information to people about different types of sexual orientations, students, regardless of their different genders or sexual preferences, should be well-informed about sex-related issues so that they can understand why each sexual identity is part of our society, and all of them deserve equal opportunities and respect in public spaces, too. It helps them broaden their horizon and view sex from a positive and analytical lens and recognise signs of illness and immediately seek help.
Likewise, students, especially girls, can realise the complications they would face during sexual intercourse, abortion, pregnancy and delivery at an early age and can grow more sympathetic and empathetic.
More importantly, on account of sex education in schools, boys "are likely to abandon their archaic perceptions of women as inferior and mere sexual objects with no meaningful role to play outside the home". A better understanding of sex-related contents can result in good rapport among existing sexual identities, a healthy discussion on sex-related problems, prevention from STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), and elimination of early marriages and pregnancies.
On the other hand, some experts also believe that if it's not taught properly, sex education at school can become a matter of uneasiness, and students may lose interest in it. It may be seen as a subject of contempt, shame and embarrassment, and cause a lower percentage of attendance in class. When a student's sexual orientation is revealed or expressed, s/he is likely to be insulted, harassed and patronised.
Name-calling can hurt the self-esteem of students.
There's a chance of triggering negative consequences, too. Some students misinterpret the information provided by the educators and participate in unsafe sex.
It's not wrong to say some Nepalis are still cynical about sex, arguing it rather promotes promiscuity if sex-related content is embedded into the school curricula. It's not easy for Nepali schools to introduce sex education because for centuries "sex" has been misinterpreted. Schools alone cannot implement sex education successfully without parents' support.
Furthermore, sex education at an early age or grade can misfire. Acquiring knowledge and information on sex in the early grades can generate a lot of interest in sex and can induce students to experiment with sexual intercourse.
Some experts claim introducing sex education at an early age runs the risk of breaking down children's natural sense of reserve.
But far from being a hindrance, children's natural inhibitions and sense of modesty in talking about sexual matters are healthy and provide a necessary safeguard against both sexual abuse and casual attitudes towards sexual intimacy later on.
There's another question that can arise. Are teachers well-trained to deliver such sex-related sensitive lessons very professionally and efficiently? No school should hurry to introduce sex education in the early grades, in particular, because there seems to be an equal chance of intensifying growing, restless students' desire of experiencing something new and satisfying students' series of queries regarding sex.
In a nutshell, the fact that marriage, sex/gender and sexuality are the subject of profound debate in our culture and the courts, the importance of sex education in Nepali schools in this digital era cannot be overlooked. More than adults, young students tend to be easily abused sexually and psychologically traumatised by the unlimited amount of uncensored sexual content available on the Internet.
Hence, parents too should teach their children about sex issues at home. On the schools' part, they need to consult with psychologists and subject experts.
A version of this article appears in the print on November 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.