The Madras High Court, in a judgment last year, called for age-specific sex education. The case was pertaining to child sexual abuse.
"Age appropriate sex education could reduce the incidence and severity of sexual abuse," the judge said. "Failure on the part of government to provide compulsory sex education in schools amounts to negligence. The responsibility for this rests not just with the government but also with parents and teachers."
It is well known that if young people are denied correct, scientific information, they may acquire half-baked and incorrect knowledge from sources such as the internet, friends and movies. Unfortunately, most parents and teachers are themselves ignorant. Even those who know the scientific facts are extremely uncomfortable discussing or teaching this. Sex education is the most misunderstood topic. It is not about how to do. It is instruction on issues relating to human sexuality: emotional relations and responsibility; sexual behaviour, sexual rights, etc.
The components of sex education are: gender identity and gender role; family role and social role; body image; sexual expression, sensuousness and eroticism; affection, love and intimacy; relationships. In other words it is about human relationships.
Sex education is a life skills education. It prepares young people to lead a healthy life in society. Imparting sex education is a skill, too. It requires parents and teachers to have an open mind and shed their inhibitions. Again, all children need not be given all the information. Children at different ages need information which is appropriate to their age and understanding.
- Explain things in a way that your child can understand, given their age.
- Don’t think you have to cover everything in one go. Younger kids are interested in pregnancy and babies, rather than the act of sex.
Every child is different, but here is a rough guide to what children should be able to understand about sex and reproduction at different ages.
Up to two years: Toddlers should be able to name all the body parts including the genitals. Most two-year-olds know the difference between male and female, and can usually figure out if a person is male or female. Give them scientific terms and not colloquial ones.
Two to five years old: Children should understand the basics of reproduction, that a man and a woman make a baby together, and the baby grows in the uterus.
Children should understand their body is their own. Teach them about privacy around body issues. They should know that other people can touch them in some ways but not other ways.
Five to eight years old: Children should have a basic understanding that some people are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. They should also know what the role of sexuality is in relationships. Children should know the basic social conventions of privacy, nudity, and respect for others in relationships.
Nine to twelve years old: In addition to reinforcing all the things they have already learned, they should be taught about safe sex and contraception.
They should understand what makes a positive relationship and what makes for a bad one.
They should also learn to judge whether depictions of sex and sexuality in the media are true or false, realistic or not, and whether they are positive or negative. Risks about being stalked by strangers in social media and lure of internet pornography should be explained.
Teens are generally very private people. However, if parents have spoken to their child early about sex there are more chances of the teenagers approaching parents while in a dangerous situation.
Prepare your children for a healthy life. Ensure their safety and happiness. After all, that is the responsibility of every parent.