India is unprepared for teen sexual revolution

Swagata Yadavar
Friday, 12 January 2018

While the percentage of women married before 18 decreased from 47.4 per cent in 2005-06 (NFHS-3) -- and 16 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 who were mothers a decade ago -- the use of contraceptives in married women aged 15-49 years dropped from 56.3 to 53.5 per cent.

NEW DELHI: One in four Indian women is married before 18, and 7.8 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 are pregnant or mothers, according to the latest available 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 

While the percentage of women married before 18 decreased from 47.4 per cent in 2005-06 (NFHS-3) -- and 16 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 who were mothers a decade ago -- the use of contraceptives in married women aged 15-49 years dropped from 56.3 to 53.5 per cent. While 2.7 per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls reported their sexual debut before the age of 15 in 2005-06, the latest comparative data have not been 

Yet, social and policy barriers do not allow the sexual and reproductive needs of adolescents (10 to 19 years) to be addressed because many of those who have sex are unmarried and below the age of consent, said Sunil Mehra, Executive Director of MAMTA, a Delhi-based non-profit working on adolescent and reproductive health 

As a result, 33.6 per cent of India’s population is born of adolescent pregnancies; delaying the onset of child-bearing could reduce India’s projected 2050 population of 1.7 billion by 25.1 per cent, according to a 2013 United Nation Population Fund 

India has 253 million adolescents, more than any other country and equivalent to the combined populations of Japan, Germany and Spain, but the country is not doing enough to ensure that they become productive adults. That process begins with making more adolescents familiar with sexuality, but the opposite is 

Spurred by concerns of HIV-AIDS, the government in association with UN agencies introduced an adolescence-education programme (AEP) in 2005. Adolescent health featured for the first time as a national programme which included health clinics that offered preventive, promotive, curative and referral services for adolescents (10-19 years) and youth (19-24 

Within two years of inception, the AEP was banned in 12 states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. For instance, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the illustrations were too graphic; he wanted adolescent education focussed on “yoga and Indian cultural The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) removed contentious illustration and words considered explicit, such as ‘intercourse’, ‘condoms’ and ‘

“It is difficult to say how many states are implementing the Adolescence Education Programme, since several states that banned it earlier have begun implementing it, such as Kerala,” said Dipika Srivastava, Programme Coordinator at TARSHI, a New Delhi-based NGO working on 

However, even where the programme is being implemented, the quality of implementation is open to question, she said. “Given that sexuality education addresses long-held attitudes and cultural or moral norms, effective implementation is key to making sure young people get accurate, non-judgmental information related to sexuality,” said 

In Bihar, of more than 10,400 adolescents (15-19 years) surveyed, 14.1 per cent of unmarried adolescent boys and 6.3 per cent of unmarried adolescent girls had premarital sex; and of them, 22 per cent boys and 28.5 per cent girls had premarital sex before 15 years, according to a 2016 report by the Population.

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