Talking about sexuality is still a taboo

Pranita Roy
Tuesday, 4 September 2018

There is a lack of non-judgemental space to talk about sexuality: Study 

Pune: Today’s youths feel that there is a lack of non-judgemental space to talk about their sexual experiences. This was revealed during the ongoing study which has been conducted by Prayas Health Group, an NGO based in Pune. It has published a study on ‘Capabilities Matter: Role of young people’s abilities in promoting and protecting their sexual health’ in which youths below 30 years have shared their experiences on the occasion of World Sexual Health Day which is celebrated on September 4.

The NGO is currently conducting ‘Youth in Transition’ a life course study of trajectories of sexual behaviours in young unmarried youths from urban areas in Pune. As the study is ongoing the complete finding and analysis are pending.

Dr Shrinivas Darak, senior researcher, Prayas Health Group, Pune, who drafted the study along with Shamoita Bose, a researcher with the NGO, said, “During the interviews, we comprehended that youngsters have expressed that there was a lack of non-judgemental space to talk about sexual experiences.” 
“Their decision to have physical intimacy, sexual orientation, preferences - everything is given a judgmental perception. Sexual relations between unmarried couples remain a taboo in our country, hence, they cannot approach their family or relatives. While friends don’t deal sensitively about these matters,” said Dr Darak.
With the impact of globalisation and drastic changes in the society due to easy access to information via the Internet, the youths today faces a lot of challenges. One important issue engulfed in stigma is that of sexuality which does not get open discussion spaces. Around 27.5 per cent of the population in India is youths between the age group of 15 and 29 years.

The study was conducted by interviewing more than 900 unmarried youths for up to 1.5 to 2 hours in duration per person. The interview was conducted with the utmost sensitivity and complete confidentiality. During the interview, participants were asked to recall information about significant events in their life pertaining to their education, careers, migration, relationships, substance use, mental health, etc.

Darak expressed that with rapid change in society, youngsters fall under the pressure of being in a relationship, social presence becomes important. “This crisis is mainly felt by migrated population especially those from rural to urban areas. Lack of communication, appealing appearance/personality, presence on social media etc., are judged for the person as these people have cultural resistance, so their ability to adapt is slow. Besides, many youths enter relationships under peer pressure,” said Darak.

The concept ‘sexual health’ has been defined by WHO 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. (WHO, 2017b)”

Through this study, the organisation is emphasising on the need of ability. By ability, it means expressing consent, negotiation, command. “For example, a girl is aware that she needs to have protected sex, but the sense of ability to go and buy a condom from the medical store is restricted. Here, she is dependent on the man,” said Darak.

“We need to build an empowering environment for youths to have pleasurable and non-abusive sexual health. We need to create the ability and promote it among the youths,” added Darak.

He also stated that India being one of the progressive countries in terms of having liberal laws on abortion, ironically, the country has the highest rated unsafe abortion figures, he said.

Strict abortion laws in several countries, for example, violate some basic human rights and compel a number of women to opt for unsafe abortion which has serious health implications, reveals the study.

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