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Sex Education In India: Why, What, When, Where, Whom?

Indian Institute of Sexology Bhubaneswar
Indian Institute of Sexology Bhubaneswar
Sanjita Maternity Care and Hospital, Plot No-1, Ekamra Marg, Unit-6, Bhubaneswar-751001, Odisha, India
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exual health comprises a very important health
domain. A keen understanding of sexuality is
instrumental in leading a healthy life. Curiosity
about sexuality develops right from the very early
stage of life and afterwards childhood experiences
go a long way in moulding adulthood sexuality.
If we look at sexuality from a developmental
perspective, identication and awareness about
gender is an important element, which often
develops by the age of three years. Going ahead,
gender identication and awareness intensies
at around puberty, when secondary sexual
characteristics clearly manifest themselves and
become all the more evident.
Freudian theory of psycho-sexual development
brings about the conceptual evolution of sexuality
across ages. It is a natural instinctual tendency of
human beings to explore about sexuality from an
early age. However, the prevailing socio-cultural
and political environment may create opportunity
Indian Institute of Sexology Bhubaneswar
Sanjita Maternity Care and Hospital, Plot No-1, Ekamra Marg, Unit-6, Bhubaneswar-751001, Odisha, India
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to explore more or may act as an impediment for the
curiosity. Among diverse geographies, certain cultures
are found to be offering more challenges and thereby
limit the opportunities to explore and learn. Probably,
India too is facing a similar kind of challenge.
Education about sexuality is often held as a taboo
in Indian culture. Indian culture seldom encourages
discussing sex and sexuality openly. Often, people
blame the ancient Indian system for the prevailing mind
set. However, it sounds nothing less than illogical.
Had the ancient Indian system not been that resilient
and advanced in imparting effective sex education
in the society, the erotic sculptures and the popular
literatures on sexuality like Kamasutra, Rati Rahasya,
Smara Pradipa, Ananga Ranga might not have been
created by our ancestors.
Imparting sex education is both a science and an art.
It needs the educator to be properly trained rst before
being tasked to educate others. Currently, the scope
of sexuality education is limited to basic anatomy
and physiology of the reproductive system in most
educational curriculums. Few more issues related to
sexually transmitted infections, especially AIDS are
also covered to some extent. This pathetically falls
short of the actual needs.
There raises an endless debate on the issue of the
incorporation of sex education in formal school and
college curriculum. Criticisms and protests continue
unabated on this controversial issue and might intensify
in the coming days. Sex education today is clearly at
a crossroads. Considering the indispensability of sex
education in building a healthy and progressive society,
it’s pertinent to ask “What needs to be included in sex
education? When to start it? And, of course, Where
to start it?” rather than raising the question “Why sex
Dr. Sujit Kumar Kar
Executive Editor
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Dr. Saumya Ranjan Mishra
Publication Editor
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Mr. Manash Ranjan Debata
Language Editor
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Dr. Maheswar Satpathy
Member - Editorial Team
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Dr. Lalatendu Swain
Member - Editorial Team
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4December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
5 Adolescent Sex Education - Indian Scenario
Dr. Amit Khanna | Dr. Prerna Khanna
11 Issues Related to Adolescent Sexuality and Role of Socio-cultural Factors in
Sexual Behaviors among Adolescents in India
Dr. Bandna Gupta | Dr. Rashmi Shukla
18 Sex Education: Role of Mental Health Professionals in India
Dr. Vijay Krishnan | Dr. Siddharth Sarkar
24 Sexuality Education: When, Where, How and What? An Indian Perspective
Dr. Adarsh Tripathi
29 Sex Education: Understanding the Western Model
Dr. Ananya Choudhury | Dr. Khushboo Bairwa
35 Reproduction & Risk Factor Awareness : A Review
Dr. Akshaya Kumar Mahapatra | Dr. Sulochana Dash
44 Sexuality Education in Ayurveda and Kamasutra
Dr. Saroj Kumar Sahu
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Sex education in India is poorly implemented. Its robust implementation has become
the need of the hour, despite lot of resistance in its path of implementation. The major
resistances are unawareness and taboos associated with discussing sexuality openly.
Understanding sexuality will likely to bring changes in multiple major domains of life.
Adolescent Sex Education - Indian Scenario
Dr. Amit Khanna | Dr. Prerna Khanna
Sex education broadly comprises of instructions on human sexuality which is an
embodiment of physical, psychological, emotional, social and relational components of
human relationships. Historically, the subject of sex education for children and adolescents
was met with severe resistance by the John Birch Society in the 1960’s in the West [1].
Recent decades have witnessed an increasing trend in sexual indulgence among teens,
teenage pregnancies, and incidences of AIDS. It has given a momentum to the practice
of sex education in schools along with the development of structured programmes which
provided evidence base for their purported effectiveness.
The projectile of sex education in India perhaps is following a similar trajectory as
it is in the West. With the introduction of a new adolescent education programme stressing
on adolescent reproductive health by NACO and HRD Ministry, a controversy broke out
in 2007 leading to banning of the sex education programme. School administrators were
threatened with dire consequences for corrupting tender minds [2].
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Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
It is pertinent to note that the UNESCO Project
met with serious moral and ideological opposition
in India [3]. UNESCO conducted a six country
study on the cost and cost-effectiveness of a
comprehensive sexuality education programme
and India was a part of this study. The programme
was launched in May 2002 in four districts of
Odisha. Following the controversy, the project
was stalled for three years and re-emerged as
‘Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health
(ARSH) education’ in 2007. Over the next couple
of years, with the indigenously prepared culturally
appropriate education material, the project was
implemented in all the 30 districts of Odisha
covering approximately 5560 schools and 1 million
children. The cost of program implementation was
found to be US $ 13.5 per student and US $ 630
per school, which was much lower in comparison
to other countries. The cost effectiveness was
calculated in the program conducted in Estonia
wherein the comprehensive sexuality education
program purportedly brought down 4000
unintended pregnancies, 7000 STI’s and 1900 HIV
cases over a period of 9 years, which by all means
would be considered a successful venture.
However, staunch Indian conservatives
argued around the same time that sex education
with the pretext of saving children from the HIV
epidemic is erroneous as the cases in the west
did not show a declining trend in spite of all the
efforts at sex education and recommended
multi-stakeholder brainstorming sessions before
implementing comprehensive sexuality education
programs across the Indian states [4].
Three big social problems in India :
Adolescent marriage, Adolescent
child bearing and Child sex abuse
According to the International Institute
of Population Science data base, 45% of women
in India marry before 18 years of age and 22%
of them give birth to their rst child even before
they attain the legal age for marriage (in India, the
legal age of marriage is 18 years for girls and 21
years for boys) [5]. Modern contraceptive usage is
abysmally low ranging from a mere 12% in Delhi
to 2% in Bihar in the age group of 15-19 years with
a huge unmet need in 45% of the women in the
same age group. This is further complicated by
the rising cases of HIV/AIDS with the adolescent
and young population comprising 34% of the total
AIDS burden [6]. Poor infrastructure and lack of
human resources to deal with adolescent specic
reproductive health issues make the issue of sex
education not only relevant but also important
from a human rights perspective [7]. India scores
poorly on adolescent reproductive health issues.
The situation is alarming when it comes to
statistics of child sex abuse in India. The results
of the study on child sex abuse by the Ministry
of Social Justice and Empowerment revealed
that approximately 53% of male and 47% of
adolescent females were victims of sex abuse
[8]. This is possibly the vanguard for the need
to spread sex education and awareness among
school children as it dawned for the rst time on
the conservatives and liberal Indian populace,
the grave danger our children face from sexual
predators. Sex education can act as a stop or
preventive measure against sex abuse. Even
though the subject of sex education has often
been debated in India with attempts to remove the
taboos associated with it; no longer can the Indian
community defer imparting age-appropriate sex
education to children in India.
One way of moving forward is to try and
understand what leads the Indian socio-political
class to resist or ban the sex education program
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
in the rst place. This has its roots in the common
myths about sex education for children and
adolescent population; in that it leads to increased
sexual promiscuity among adolescents, thereby
‘corrupting’ their tender minds and that the Indian
society is essentially conservative and hence
what is applicable to the West doesn’t necessarily
require to be implemented in India.
There is ample evidence from research
to support the fact that sex education and HIV
risk reduction programs signicantly reduce
HIV risk in the adolescent and young population
[9-11]. According to the WHO report on family life,
reproductive health and population education, sex
education famously called with a more appealing
term as Family Life Education (FLE) results
in delayed entering into sexual relationships,
reduced number of partners, increased use of
contraceptive and positive sexual behaviours [12].
These facts need to be addressed by the scientic
community effectively to bring about a change in
the primitive mind set in a rapidly evolving world.
Further, our imprudence is evident from the fact
that we as a community shy away from discussions
and debates about sexuality with children over the
dining table or in the class rooms and continue to
live within the bubble of conservatism while turning
a blind eye to the exposure of children to mass
media, internet and pornography without realizing
the impact it has in shaping the sexuality of young
minds. With the electronic medium largely being
an unregulated source of information, the onus
lies on the parents and schools to educate the
young minds on the right practices in a scientic
and an age-appropriate manner. Even three
decades ago, a survey conducted in Hyderabad
and Secunderabad cities of India revealed that
the major source of information on sexual matters
among adolescents was books and lms [13]. In
current times, the inuence of cyber technology
in providing sexually explicit material is huge
and not many studies have been done in India
to understand the inuence it has in shaping
adolescent sexuality.
Evidence from Household Surveys
and Comprehensive Sexuality
Education Programs in India
Two nationally representative large
household surveys done in India in the last decade
have shed light on the knowledge, attitudes and
practices of the adolescents towards Family Life
Education and there appears to be a huge unmet
need in adolescent sexual and reproductive
health. A retrospective study analysed data from
District Level Household and Facility Survey
(Approximately 1.6 lakh unmarried women were
interviewed using a structured interview schedule)
and the Youth Study in India (Approximately 51
thousand married and unmarried young women
and men were interviewed) carried out between
2007-2008 and 2006-2007, respectively [14].
According to it, 80% of the unmarried women
in the age range of 15-24 years perceived the
importance of Family Life Education (FLE). More
than half of them felt that it should be initiated
from 8th class onwards. Majority of the sample
surveyed felt that Family Life Education should
be imparted by parents followed by teachers in
schools and colleges and then siblings, although
men preferred teachers to parents for proffering
FLE. Amongst those who perceived the need
for FLE, only half of them actually received the
same, thereby reecting a huge chasm in service
delivery; and 50% of these participants received
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the FLE from schools or colleges. Women who
received FLE had better awareness of various
reproductive health issues in comparison to those
who did not receive FLE.
With 1/3 of the Indian population in the
age group of 10-24 years, the ndings from these
two nationally representative samples highlights
the huge unmet need for adolescent reproductive
health education amongst the youth and that the
authoritative conservative proclivity of the policy
makers will only expand this gap, thereby affecting
the development of the youth into responsible and
well informed adults.
By and large, there is ample amount
of evidence from literature from the West that
school-based sex education programmes improve
the overall quality of lives of the adolescents and
their reproductive health [11]. Exploratory studies
in India too reveal the knowledge gap [14,15], the
perceived need for sex education by adolescents
[14,16] and school teachers [17] but there is a
genuine dearth of literature on how to implement
sex education programmes both in the West as
well as in India [11].
Implications for Designing and
Implementing Sex Education in India
However, there may be some merit
in the argument against large scale curriculum
based comprehensive sex education program in
schools. The success of most of the programs
has been documented in controlled settings (for
children and adolescents, school is a relatively
restricted setting) and not in the real-world
settings. In the real world settings, many factors
need to be taken into consideration which can
modify the outcome of the program such as the
educational and comfort level of the teachers,
total number of children per class, time duration
of the program, modes of imparting sex education
to the children in harmony with the local culture
and taking care of the sensitivities involved. In
a country like India with many religions, cultures
and languages, striking the right chord in the
absence of any standardized comprehensive sex
education delivering modules is an arduous task. It
is possible that for this reason, and for this reason
alone, one would want to agree treading the
path to sex education in India with some caution
without jeopardizing the future of our adolescent
In a rapidly changing world with
information overload and easy access to
electronic medium, the scientic and political
class in India need to urgently deliberate and
discuss the issue with all stakeholders and
formulate a strategy to address both basic levels
of sex education involving personal safety and
security; and advanced levels of sex education
involving adolescent reproductive health issues
in a systematic and strategic manner to help in
properly shaping the adolescent population into
responsible adults.
It is unfortunate that sex education in
India has not received as much attention from the
research and policy perspective as it should have,
given the current Indian scenario. If the unmet
need for sex education for the normal adolescent
population is as high as 50% [14], then the unmet
need of the differently able adolescent population
of 27 million is a total blind spot. According
to the Census 2011 report, 8.3% of the total
differently able population has either intellectual
impairment or severe mental illness [18]. A
signicant proportion of this group, i.e., 4.5% is
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
below 20 years. Research related to the needs
assessment and effective strategies for delivery
of sex education to the most vulnerable group of
the differently able adolescent population is still in
primordial stages and much needs to be done by
child care specialists, mental health experts and
the society at large in effecting a comprehensive
sexuality education program for this at-risk group.
It would be an error and grave injustice on our part
to continue to believe that the differently abled
have no sexual needs and as of now, imparting
them sex education would need to be done on
a case-to-case basis by concerned clinicians
who know the child best in the absence of any
structured sexuality program for them.
To conclude, there is a huge unmet need
for sex education in India amongst the youth as
established by nation-wide surveys. To keep
pace with the current day and age of Information
Technology, huge efforts need to be exacted from
clinicians, social scientists and policy makers in
providing comprehensive sex education as intra-
curricular and extracurricular programs keeping
in mind cultural beliefs and social taboos. It is
only when we as individuals are in position to
talk about the subject of sexuality without social
stigma or inappropriateness, we will be able to
make progress as a society in educating the
young minds on sex and reproductive health.
Even the healthcare facilities and healthcare
professionals lack the knowledge and comfort
to discuss issues related to sexuality that gets
reected in poor, inadequate and discomforting
history taking [19].
Indeed, it is ironic that India, the land
of ‘Kamasutra’, where sexuality was expressed
artistically through sculptures of everyday life;
and great leaders like MK Gandhi and JL Nehru
have written and spoken so elegantly about their
experimentation with their own sexuality with
meaning and purpose, is nding itself at the
receiving end when it comes to sex education,
and as a nation, is failing to do and persisting
with conservative attitudes when the evidence
points more towards the contrary. Thus, it’s the
crying need of the hour to revive the comfort and
eloquence that our forefathers had at all levels in
the society to openly discuss the various aspects
of sexuality, with continued efforts at research
and policy implementation for the safety and
appropriate shaping of our future generations.
1. Roleff TL. Sex Education viewpoints. Green haven
Press, Sandiago. 1999. http://www.dikseo.
Viewpoints.pdf [Last accessed on 25.8.2016]
2. Ameilagettleman. Sex education angers Indian
Conservatives. New York Times, 24th May, 2007.
letter.1.5851113. html [Last accessed on 28.8.2016]
3. UNESCO. School based sexuality education
programme: A cost and cost effectiveness analysis
in six countries. 2011.
images/ 0021/002116/211604E.pdf [Last accessed on
4. Singh AJ. Sex education in Indian schools. Indian
Journal of Community Medicine. 2006; 31 (1); p3-5.
5. Moore AM, Singh S, Ram U, Remez L, Audam S.
Adolescent marriage and childbearing in India: Current
situation and recent trends. Guttmacher Institute, New
York. 2009 Apr.
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6. Nawsa S, Marfatia YS. Adolescent HIV/AIDS: Issues
and Challenges, Indian J Sex Transm Dis and AIDS
2010; Vol 31 (1): p 1-10.
7. Report of United Nations Human Rights Council for the
Universal periodic review of The Republic of India on
the Lack of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in India.
India-UPR-1-YC.pdf [ Last accessed on 27.10.2016]
8. Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government
of India. Study on Child Abuse in India 2007. http://www.
pdf [Last accessed on 1.9.2016]
9. Kirby D, Laris BA, Rolleri L. Impact of sex and HIV
education programs on sexual behaviors of youth in
developing and developed countries. Family Health
International, Youth Net Program; 2005.
10. Dick B. Preventing HIV/AIDS in young people: a
systematic review of the evidence from developing
countries. Ross DA, Ferguson J, editors. Geneva:
World Health Organization; 2006.
11. United Nations Educational Scientic and Cultural
Organization report. Comprehensive sexuality
education: The challenges and opportunities of scaling
up. 2014.
002277/ 227781E.pdf [Last accessed on 15.9.2016]
12. World Health Organization. Family life, reproductive
health and population education- key elements of a
health promoting school: Information series on school
health, Document 8 Geneva; Switzerland, 2003. http:// [Last accessed on
13. Moses S, Praveena C. Sex education- Its need and
Attitude of Adolescents. Journal of Family Welfare.
1983; 30 (2): p34-9.
14. Tripathi N, Shekhar TV. Youth in India Ready for Sex
Education? Emerging Evidence from National Surveys.
PLoS ONE. 2013 Aug 9; 8(8): e71584.
15. Unni JC. Adolescent attitudes and relevance to Family
Life education programs. Indian Paediatrics. 2010 Feb
1; 47 (2): 176-9.
16. Thakor HG, Kumar P. Impact assessment of school
based sex education programs in adolescents. Indian
J of Paediatrics. 2000. 66; p551-531.
17. Bhasin SK, Aggarwal OP. Perceptions of teachers
regarding sex education in the National Capital Territory
of Delhi. Indian J of Pediatrics. 1999 Jul. 1; 66 (4): 527-
18. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Census
of India 2011. [Last accessed
on 17.10.2016]
19. Ismail S, Shajahan A, Rao TS, Wylie K. Adolescent
sex education in India: Current perspective. Indian J of
Psychiatry. 2015 Oct; 57 (4): 333.
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December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Issues Related to Adolescent Sexuality and
Role of Socio-cultural Factors in Sexual
Behaviors among Adolescents in India
Dr. Bandna Gupta | Dr. Rashmi Shukla
Adolescence is considered very important phase of an individual’s life as it is a transition
from childhood to adulthood. During this phase, an individual gains physical (both in terms
of growth and maturation of brain and body), sexual and social maturity by virtue of a
number of internal and external factors. The internal factors consist of the hormonal and
biological changes that our body undergoes in this transition phase, whereas external
factors consist of the socio-dynamic factors that one experience during this sensitive
phase.This article mainly focuses on the sexual development, orientation, behavior and
knowledge during ‘Adolescence’ and how the prevailing social norms and culture affect
adolescent sexuality and behavior.
Adolescents are dened as the individuals in the age group of 10–19 years. The National
Youth Policy of Government of India, however, denes adolescents as age group that
ranges between 13 and 19 years of age [1]. This phase is characterized by acceleration of
physical growth and associated changes in psychology and behavior, which transforms the
child into an adult. Sexual maturation accompanies the physical growth and development,
often leading to intimate relationships. In addition, the adolescent experiences changes
in social expectations and perceptions. The individual’s capacity for abstract and critical
thinking too develops along with it. There, also evolves an associated sense of awareness
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of self when social expectations require emotional
maturity. Adolescents form a signicant proportion
(22%) of the population of India. They are a rich
human resource and hold an important place
in the process of development. Therefore,
maintaining and providing adequate health care
to the adolescent age group will go a long way
in raising the health status of the community.
Adolescents show a high degree of vulnerability
to human immunodeciency virus (HIV)/acquired
immunodeciency syndrome (AIDS) and other
sexually transmitted infections (STIs) [1].
Health of adolescent girls, in particular, has an
intergenerational effect.
Gender and Adolescence
There are many factors that inuence
the ‘Sexual Identity’ of a person. It can be dened
as the way the biological sexual characteristics
of a person are exhibited. The factors that
inuence it are chromosomal patterns, external
and internal genitalia, composition of hormones,
and secondary sexual characteristics [2]. ‘Gender
Identity’ connotes the psychological behavioural
aspects in relation to masculinity and femininity.
It results from some cues that are derived as a
result of different experiences from members
of the family, teachers, peers, and co-workers
and from cultural phenomena [2]. Physical
characteristics derived from a person’s biological
sex such as physique, body shape, and physical
dimensions interrelate with an intricate system
of stimuli, including rewards and punishment
and parental gender labels, to establish gender
identity. Abnormalities in gender identity can
result in a lot of psychiatric conditions including
gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder.
This may even lead to homosexual behaviour
and thus this concept of identity development has
huge implication in adolescents. ‘Gender Role’ is
described as all those things that a person says or
does to disclose himself or herself as having the
status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively.
A gender role is not established at birth but is built
up cumulatively through experiences encountered
and transacted through casual and unplanned
learning, explicit instruction and inculcation.
Gender role is responsible for the differential
attitude and behavior of the adolescent males and
females. Adolescent girls are expected to develop
some shyness in social situations, whereas boys
are expected to act boldly. Gender inequality
begins around the adolescence [2].
Knowledge of sexuality and detailed
information regarding the same is a very
blurred area in the context of Indian culture.
As sex education has still not become a part
of the curriculum of Indian schools, no formal
education or information is available to children
and adolescents. Adolescents of India gather
their knowledge from their surroundings like
information provided to them by peer groups, or
as it comes in print media or over the internet.
The information so gathered is often uncensored
and unltered, sometimes even presented in
an improper manner or come out to be wrong
information. These wrong inputs often result in
formation of myths in these adolescent minds,
which in turn, drag them into serious problems
like untoward sexual experiences. It even may
bring undue concern regarding normal sexual
behaviors and thus cause signicant distress to
them. Adolescent, as it is known as the age for
exploration, also holds true regarding sexual
matters. As sexuality is a hidden area for most
Indian adolescents, as it is generally taken as
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
something which cannot be discussed openly in
Indian culture, various myths and misconceptions
regarding them lingers in the adolescent minds.
A stereotypical social setup offers little scope for
open discussion on sexual matters between Indian
parents and their adolescent wards, resulting in
no provision for effective resolution of the myth
surrounding sexuality for adolescents. All these
pave way for high prevalence of a distorted
notion about sexuality among Indian adolescent
Culture and Adolescence
Culture has a great impact on the
matters of belief, practices and behaviors of its
followers. How adolescents are raised, how they
need to behave, and how openly they can discuss
the matters of sexuality depend on the culture.
Conservative societies forbid the discussion
on the adolescent problems, and exhibit more
gender inequality. Sexual taboos have their root
in cultural beliefs and have important implications
in the sexual health and morbidity. Many societies
still hold misconceptions about menstruation,
and masturbation. Elders never educate on the
basic concepts of bodily changes that occur
during adolescence, keeping them in dark. There
has always been an issue of comfort regarding
sharing of knowledge on sexuality with offspring
in India. The social regulations and pattern of
cultural response is quite different in our country
in comparison to developed countries like the
Indian Culture, Adolescence and
India is one of the oldest cultures to study sexuality
and seems to be quite open in appraising sex as
an art and science. The different attitudes and
practices regarding sex rst appeared in historic
texts of various religions, which are examples
of oldest literatures. Somewhere in between
1st and 6th century the classical ‘Kamasutra’
(Aphorisms of love) was written which included
‘Dharma’, ‘Ärth’ and ‘Kama’. They represented
religious duty, welfare of the world and aspects
of life which are sensual [3]. Paintings on Ajanta
caves, sculptures of Khajuraho are few examples
of the deep interest and admiration Indians have
towards sexuality. But with foreign invasion later,
much of the ancient literature went missing and
gradually new norms were set.
Till date, our society is ridden with many
sexual myths and taboos like Dhat Syndrome, and
masturbation in females. There is no provision for
sex education either at home or in school and no
specied health service addressing adolescent
sexual problems exists. On top of it, in their day-
to-day lives, common Indian people are very
traditional and conservative in their outlook [4].
Discussing sexual matters is forbidden. There is
huge pampering of Indian children which lasts
at least till 6-7 years. Before puberty, a natural
approach to sexuality and nudity prevails,
especially in rural areas. As child grows up into
adolescent, parents start expecting that he/she
behaves sensibly, like an adult. Adolescent boys
and girls can no more have close interactions as
they did few years ago. No information is given
about the natural changes that an adolescent
witness in his/her body and mind.
Due to social stigma, adolescent girls
are not educated about menarche before hand.
A recent study found that only one third of rural
girls were told about the menstruation by their
mothers and only one fourth were explained the
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reason [5]. Often girls feel anxious and distressed
about this sudden development. In some societies,
girls are not allowed to cook, to enter sacred
places and even to take bath during menstruation.
Due to lack of proper toilets and privacy in rural
areas, girls often miss schools and colleges
during menstruation [6]. Girls are prepared to
handle household responsibilities and sometimes
their education stops at this stage. The silence of
the Indian culture on issues related to sexuality
compound problems like the treatment seeking
behaviour for neurotic and anxiety disorders (e.g.
Dhat syndrome), the HIV epidemic, infections
in the genital tract, sexual violence (e.g. female
genital mutilation), contraceptive use and abortion
services. Masturbation is a practice which is
considered a taboo and unaccepted among girl
population. For boys, however, it is considered
a preparation for mature sex life. Though boys
at the younger ages may masturbate together
without shame, at little more mature ages, they
all give it up.
A recent study on the upper middle class
adolescents of Mumbai found that they still follow
traditional norms and believe that they should
wait till they become adults before being sexually
active [7]. Another study assessed the sexuality
among Indian urban school adolescents. The
incidence of having sexual contact was 30.08% for
boys and 17.18% for girls. Around 6% boys and 1%
girls reported having had sexual intercourse [8].
Another study found that adolescent population
had rst encounter with sexual experience at the
age of 15-24 years [9].
Western Culture, Media and its
Impact on Indian Society
The scenario of adolescent sexuality
in west is different. Youth Risk Behavior Survey
(YRBS), conducted in US in 2005, reported that
46.8% of all high school students have had coital
experiences. The gure was 67.6% for African-
American youth. One in ten adolescent females
becomes pregnant each year [10]. There was
another study by Halpern et al., which observed
the sexual behavior of adolescents of western
population and also the factors which attributed
to those behaviors [11]. The study found out
that 9 out of 10 had lost their virginity before
marriage. The virgin population was found to
be younger, with less physical maturity, higher
religious inclination and mostly had an attitude of
disapproval for sex from parents [11]. It was seen
that most adolescents of late teenage years or in
early 20’s have already experienced oral or vaginal
sex irrespective of whether they were married or
not [12,13]. Exposure to vaginal sex in early in life
increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases
which can also possibly be due to more number
of sexual partners [14,15,16]. This risk is inversely
proportional to age [16,17]. By the late teenage
and early 20’s, most individuals experience oral or
vaginal sex irrespective of marital status as found
in different studies from USA. It was seen that
early exposure to vaginal sex during adolescence
increased the risk of sexually transmitted
diseases; however, the risk gradually declines
with age. It was also reported that, those who
were exposed early to vaginal sex were found to
have more number of sexual partners which might
have a link with the increased risk of sexually
transmitted diseases. It has been found that in
western countries ‘openness’ to sexuality is so
prevalent that 75% of boys and 50% of girls have
had at least one sexual intercourse with the other
sex by the age of 18. It has also been reported
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
that teenage population of America aged 15-19
years have the highest rate of pregnancy among
all industrialized countries [19]. The sweep of
globalization and blind pursuit of the ‘open’ culture
of the west may have cast a signicant impact on
a society like India. It has also been observed
that in Indian metropolitan cities these ndings
from the studies discussed here are mimicked
[20,21,22]. One of the very common sources of
information is pornography which hardly gives any
knowledge regarding marital sexual relationships
or gender equality [1]. In a study, it was found that
friends were the sources of information for 75%
of the young population whereas for 50 % it was
pornography lms or books [23].
Rapid globalization, media and
information technology has affected the traditional
societies also. Adolescents are also affected to a
great extent due to their keen interest in electronic
media like television and the internet. Adolescents
are exposed to implicit and explicit sexual material
via these media, but they are not provided with
the basic sex education. These factors may lead
to early sexual experiences with further negative
consequences [24].
The Problems
There is a genuine scarcity of formal
sex education for adolescents in schools in
most developing and emerging societies. Even
if present, it is grossly inadequate. Due to this
scarcity, there is a higher chance of unprotected
sexual activities, unwanted pregnancies and also
the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Various health challenges regarding reproductive
and sexual aspect concerns most adolescents.
Most of these challenges are due to marriage in
early age, abortion practices which are unsafe,
high risk behaviors, and lack of awareness about
contraception and reproductive issues regarding
health, infections of genital tract and infections
which are transmitted sexually (STIs) including
HIV/ AIDS and non-consensual sex [25]. This
creates an ‘unmet need’ for reproductive and
sexual health care. This unmet need varies among
adolescent age groups which are married or not.
Thus behavior of seeking help also depends upon
the marital status of the adolescent. Besides that,
public sector reproductive health services are
more oriented to give services to adult married
women. Adolescents who are not married always
show a hesitation toward seeking help from health
sector because of the fear that these services are
not condential, and also due to inability to pay,
requirement of parents’ approval and negative or
insensitive attitude of health care providers. Girls
from adolescent age group and are married also
rarely seek support due to sheer embarrassment
and the taboo associated with reproductive and
sexual health problems. The study has also shown
the prevalence of programmatic constraints in the
form of non-availability of health personnel at the
health facility and poor awareness [25].
There is always a risk of pregnancy, HIV
infection, STIs and other such health and social
hazards after the initiation of sexual activity.
In order to prevent this, in ‘open’ societies and
developed nations, condoms are distributed in
school to decrease the health hazard. This brings
into focus the question of the present situation in
our country. It is imperative that both being too
‘open’ or too ‘close’ have its own disadvantages.
Closeness due to culture and thus lack of
information regarding sexual education leads
young people to gather information from sources
which provide it in a distorted form. This results
16 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
in that the young people remain unaware of such
information which is actually needed in growing
Future Directions
Gender inequality needs to be addressed
more seriously. The task starts with the naming,
challenging and changing the negative gender
norms and building norms that value girls at par
with boys. At the individual level, adolescents need
to be educated about puberty. Various challenges
presented by menstruation need to be tackled. At
the family level, girls need to be supported during
their menses. At the community level, we need to
improve the access to sanitary products, running
water, functional toilets and privacy. Social leaders
should contribute in changing the perception of
the menarche and menstruation to one of promise
and pride, rather than of shame.
Adolescents need comprehensive,
accurate and developmentally appropriate
sexuality education. Improving adolescents’
knowledge and understanding of sexual and
reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS, and
thus improving their skills in life to take care of
their own health is a crucial step in the direction
of meeting their health needs and fulfilling
their rights. Adolescent-centered health
services can prevent sexual and reproductive
health problems and detect and treat them.
Effective ways should be developed to deliver
contraceptive information and services to
adolescents. Sexuality education programs
should be brought into practice in India keeping
in mind the social, cultural ethos. Government
should address the social and cultural barriers
in this regard.
1. Naswa S, Marfatya YS. Adolescent HIV/AIDS: Issues and
challenges. Indian J Sex Transm Dis 2010;31:1-10.
2. Sadock BJ, Sadock VA. Normal sexuality. In Sadock &
Sadockeds. Kaplan & Sadocks Synopsis of Psychiatry:
behavioural sciences/clinical Psychiatry. Lippincott
Williams & Wilkins 2007.p 680-689.
3. Burton R, Arbuthnot FF. Translated ‘The Kamasutra of
Vatsyayana’. New York: Putnam; 1984. p. 223.
4. Chakraborty K, Thakurata RG. Indian concept of
sexuality. Indian J Psychiatry 2013;55:250-5.
5. Kotecha PV, Patel S, Baxi RK, Mujumdar VS, Misra S,
Modi E, et al. Reproductive health awareness among
rural school going adolescents of Vadodara dstrict.
Indian J Sex Transm Dis 2009; 30:94-9.
6. Chander-Mouli V, Greinger R, Nwosu A, Hainsworth
G, Sundaram L, Hadi S, et al. Invest in adolescents
and young people: it pays. Reproductive health 2013
7. Selvan MS, Ross MW, Nagaraj S, Etzel CJ, Shete S.
Perception among upper middle class adolescents in
Bombay regarding sex and sexuality. Indian J Public
Health 2005;49(4): 250-1.
8. Ramadugu S, Rayali V, Srivastava K, Bhat PS, Prakash
J. Understanding sexuality among Indian urban school
adolescents. Ind Psychiatry J 2011;20:49-55.
9. Reddy GD, Narayana PE, Sreedharan AK. A Report on
Urban (Madras) College Students′ Attitudes Towards
Sex. Antiseptic, 1983.
10. Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, Ross J, Hawkins J, Harris
WA, et al. Youth risk behaviour surveillance- United
States,2005. MMWR Surveill Summ 2006 (55):1-108.
11. Halpern CT, Waller MW, Spriggs A, Hallfors DD.
Adolescent predictors of emerging adult sexual
patterns. J Adolesc Health 2006;39:926.e1-10.
12. Fortenberry JD, Schick V, Herbenick D, Sanders SA,
Dodge B, Reece M. Sexual behaviors and condom
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use at last vaginal intercourse: A national sample
of adolescents ages 14 to 17 years. J Sex Med
2010;7Suppl 5:305-14.
13. Herbenick D, Reece M, Schick V, Sanders SA, Dodge
B, Fortenberry JD. Sexual behavior in the United States:
Results from a national probability sample of men and
women ages 14-94. J Sex Med 2010;7Suppl 5:255-65.
14. Upchurch DM, Mason WM, Kusunoki Y, Kriechbaum
MJ. Social and behavioral determinants of self-reported
STD among adolescents. Perspect Sex Reprod Health
15. Kaestle CE, Halpern CT, Miller WC, Ford CA. Young
age at rst sexual intercourse and sexually transmitted
infections in adolescents and young adults. Am J
Epidemiol 2005;161:774-80.
16. Haydon AA, Herring AH, Halpern CT. Associations
between patterns of emerging sexual behavior and
young adult reproductive health. Perspect Sex Reprod
Health 2012;44:218-27.
17. O′Donnell L, O′Donnell CR, Stueve A. Early sexual
initiation and subsequent sex-related risks among
urban minority youth: The reach for health study. Fam
Plann Perspect 2001;33:268-75.
18. Papathanasiou I, Lahana E. Adolescence, sexuality and
sexual education. Health Sci J 2007;1:8.
19. Meschke LL, Bartholomae S, Zentall SR. Adolescent
sexuality and parent-adolescent processes: Promoting
healthy teen choices. J Adolesc Health 2002;31:264-
20. Jaya, Hindin MJ, Ahmed S. Differences in young
people’s reports of sexual behaviors according to
interviewmethodology: A randomized trial in India. Am
J Public Health 2008;98:169-74.
21. Abraham L, Anil Kumar K. Sexual experiences and
their correlates among college students in Mumbai City,
India. Int Fam Plan Perspect 1999;25:139-47.
22. Mehra S, Savithri R, Coutinho L. Sexual behaviour
among unmarried adolescents in Delhi, India:
Opportunities despite parental controls. New Delhi,
India: MAMTA-Health Institute for Mother and Child.
c2014. http://www.
S30Mehra.pdf. [Last accessed on 20/08/2016].
23. Shashikumar R, Das RC, Prabhu HR, Srivastava K,
Bhat PS, Prakash J, et al. A cross-sectional study of
factors associated with adolescent sexual activity.
Indian J Psychiatry 2012;54:138-43.
24. Brown JD, Childers KW, Waszak CS. Television and
adolescent sexuality. J Adolesc Sex Health 1990:62-
25. Nath N, Garg S. adolescent friendly health services in
India: A need for the hour. Indian J Med Sci 2008;62(11):
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18 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Sex Education: Role of Mental Health
Professionals in India
Dr. Vijay Krishnan | Dr. Siddharth Sarkar
Sex education in India is a victim of competing interests. On the one hand, there exist
deep societal taboos against public discussions on sexuality and on the other, a young and
rapidly growing population creates unprecedented requirements for new thinking on sexual
health. Placed in the interface of this conict, mental health professionals need to carefully
consider the context and aims of sex education. Here, we present an overview of the
key debates surrounding the development of an appropriate curriculum for sex education,
and the role of the mental health professionals in relation to other key stakeholders (e.g.,
educationists, parents and peers, and civil society members).
India represents a particular paradox in the eld of sex education. There has been a
historical policy push towards regulating sexual activity, with India being the rst developing
country to formulate a family planning policy as early as 1951 [1,2]. The motivation varied
from a need to control a burgeoning population, to the more recent need to control sexually
transmitted infections, including HIV. At the same time, India remains a deeply conservative
society, where discussions of sexual activity have been considered a taboo [3,4]. Health
professionals must negotiate this conict frequently in their practice, since it is one that
is intimately connected with health outcomes. It is also one in which the transmission of
appropriate information demands expertise, and skills to engage with the prior beliefs of
the audience.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
What Is Sex Education?
Literature abounds in terms that are
roughly equivalent to sex education-‘Family Life
Education’, ‘Lifestyle Education’, ‘Adolescent
Education’, ‘Family Planning Education’, and so
on. Apart from reecting societal needs to use
euphemisms while talking about sexual activity,
they also represent differences in the scope and
curriculum of sex education [5]. Knowledge about
sex is conveyed either informally or formally by
peers, by parents or other adult caregivers, by
teachers, or by health professionals; and the
expected outcome of this education naturally
varies with this context [5–8]. Here, we shall
restrict ourselves to the aspects that are related
directly to the WHO’s denition of sexuality:
“Sexuality is a central aspect of being
human throughout life and encompasses sex,
gender identities and roles, sexual orientation,
eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.
Sexuality is experienced and expressed in
thought, fantasies, desire, beliefs, attitudes,
values, behaviours, practices, roles and
relationships [9].”
The above denition makes it clear
that discussions of sexuality cannot easily
be separated from their relational context.
We will discuss the general issues relating to
providing information about sexuality and sexual
relationships to groups, as this is the context
in which the term ‘sex education’ is most often
used. Therefore, this article will not discuss
individualized information that might need to be
conveyed in a clinical context, which are more
often part of mental health professionals’ daily
practice. It is within this framework that we
would strive to dene a role for mental health
What is the Purpose of Sex
Education ?
Sex education has several purposes,
which will be dealt here in detail.
The importance of sex education cannot
be over-emphasized. First and foremost, sexuality
in all its dimensions comprises an important
aspect of human behavior, and being able to
regulate one’s own sexual urges and behavior
is part of living a healthy life. As is the case with
other complex behavior, there is an intricate
interplay of sociological, psychological and
physiological factors that are involved, and need
to be accounted for in discussions of sexuality. At
the same time, misconceptions about sexuality
are highly prevalent, as demonstrated by surveys
[3,10,11]. The rates of unplanned and early
pregnancies remain high [12], and are associated
with high rates of morbidity and mortality [13].
Adolescence is a particularly risky period,
with studies showing that women are at the highest
risk for intimate partner violence and sexual
violence between the ages of 15 and 17 [14]. A
considerable proportion of the AIDS burden in
India lies amongst the adolescent population.
Studies conducted by the Department of Child
Welfare have come up with a disturbing nding
that a majority of children have experienced some
form of sexual abuse [15]. Sex education remains
an important component of the efforts to tackle all
these health-related problems, and is therefore, a
priority for educators and health professionals.
While doing so, educators must be aware of
certain issues.
The social construction of gender, and the
prevalence of gender stereotypes:
That might
be unintentionally reinforced by the educator
(that women do not initiate sex or explore
20 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
sexual relationships; that women must dress
modestly to avoid sexual assault; that sexual
victimization affects only women; and other
issues related to consent for sexual activity).
A life course perspective:
The information that
needs to be conveyed depends on the age and
gender of the recipients. Some advocates for
sex education have argued that sex education
is best initiated at an early age, in order to
cover all aspects including identication and
protection against childhood sexual abuse.
This has shaped the sex education curriculum
in a number of countries [9,16]. Others have
suggested that discussions on sexuality are
best restricted to those who are married,
as being more representative of sexual
expression in Indian culture [17]. Another
school suggests that no general discussions
of sexuality should take place.
The cultural context:
Surveys have
demonstrated that sexual activity quite
commonly occurs outside the marital context
and in adolescence, both in urban and rural
India, and this information must be considered
in shaping institutional stances. A recent
meta-analysis concluded that sex education
aiming at abstinence performed poorly when
compared to comprehensive sex education on
a number of parameters, including knowledge
of sexually transmitted infections, and age at
initiation of sexual contact [18].
The social realities of the subject:
from the west may not be appropriate while
discussing the relationship between sexual
experimentation and parties, drinking or
dating, which are often used in manuals of sex
education when they are transposed directly
from the western context [4]. Differentiated
opinions on sexual activity, ranging from strong
support for abstinence and a heterosexual
orientation, to more liberal views, the entire
gamut of sexual experiences may be discussed
during the sex education course.
The Indian Context
Surveys on sexual activity
A number of surveys have shown an early
age of sexual activity, particularly in metropolitan
areas. The average age of rst intercourse in
two surveys in Mumbai, for example, was found
to be between 13 and 14 years of age and other
surveys amongst school-going and college-going
adolescents have data to suggest that anywhere
between 14% and 40% of young men, and between
5% and 40% of school-going and college-going
adolescents are sexually active [11,19]. These
surveys are likely to represent only the populations
in which the studies were conducted (the educated
urban on the one hand and the under-privileged
urban on the other) and may not be universal to
the entire population. Researchers have also had
to negotiate cultural sensitivities while surveying
minors, including taking consent from parents and
teachers (this may have introduced a selection bias).
However, they do run against the general impression
of India being naturally conservative, and suggest
that it would be wrong to conate sexual activity and
marriage, even in the Indian context.
This data may also be supplemented by
the data which suggests that under-age marriage,
particularly for women, is still a reality in India,
and that for a number of Indian women, the rst
pregnancy still occurs in the adolescent period.
Knowledge about sex
The above mentioned studies as well
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
as others have also delved into the respondents’
knowledge and attitudes towards contraception,
safe sex, and HIV/AIDS. These studies indicate
that a vast majority of adolescents do not have
access to knowledge that would be essential for
them to avoid high-risk sexual intercourse and the
consequences there of [20].
The National Council for Educational
Research and Training (NCERT) has brainstormed
including sex education in schools since 1993.
However, a curriculum for sex education was
nally introduced in 2006/2007 under ‘Adolescent
Education Programme’ which was produced
in collaboration with the National AIDS Control
Organization (NACO) and UNICEF [21]. This
programme was withdrawn after several states
protested against including sex education in the
school curriculum [22,23]. Some states have gone
on to produce their own sex education curriculum,
and these texts have been subjected to criticism [4].
This troubled course probably reects difculties
in achieving a consensus that satises the
competing requirements—scientic, political and
social. Interestingly, a survey of teachers in Delhi
demonstrated overwhelming support for giving
some kind of sex education to school children,
although it was met with opposition on including
topics related to pre-marital sex, masturbation or
abortions [24].
How Mental Health Professionals Get
Involved ?
Mental health professionals may have
to deal with discussions on sexuality as part of
their daily clinical practice. Traumatic sexual
incidents such as childhood sexual abuses are
well documented risk factors for development
of depression, personality disorders and
schizophrenia in later life and may be linked
with depression, adjustment disorders, anxiety
disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Alternatively, alterations in sexual activity may be
part of a mental illness.
In addition to these clinical presentations
in which mental health professionals may
encounter persons in need for accurate information
about sexuality, a number of other situations must
be borne in mind which may require additional
questioning, and may be incidental to the
presentation, but may carry great relevance.
Those with alternate sexualities and gender
incongruence, which are associated with
difculties in adjusting to these differences
Children or adolescents who are in need
of support while adjusting with sexual
development and sexual relationships
What is the Role of Mental Health
Professional ?
The rst and most important role
for mental health professionals is to serve
as advocates for appropriate sex education.
Professional associations particularly must
recognize that this is an important area where
mental health professionals need to formulate
their position, making use of the best available
evidence. Such a position must recognize the
importance of sex education as mentioned above,
and should be culturally appropriate. In our view,
this must be based on an understanding of
sexuality and its contributions to a healthy life.
As discussed previously, sex education
is disseminated through a number of outlets, and
the quality of this information varies considerably
22 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
with the source. It would be difcult to single
out one section as being primarily responsible
for sex education responsibilities. Mental health
professionals’ roles, therefore, would necessarily
be collaborative with the other stakeholders
such as parents, educators and civil societies
and government bodies. At each level, it would
be necessary to recognize the relative strengths
of each contributor. Mental health professionals
may be able to contribute in various ways, but
particularly in assisting with the development
and dissemination of a curriculum that integrates
physiological and biological information with
an understanding of the psychological and
developmental elements that are part of
adolescent sexual activity. Another possible
role for mental health professionals is to collate
data on the current status and population needs
for sex education, and to evaluate intervention
programmes by designing appropriate studies.
Although sex education has been
recognized as an important tool for encouraging
adolescents towards healthy relationships, they
have not been successfully implemented so far
in India. A curriculum that is backed by scientic
evidence, pragmatic about adolescent sexual
experimentation, while accounting for cultural
sensitivities, needs to be developed after wide
consultation. Mental health professionals have a
duty to collaborate with other health professionals,
educators and civil society groups, to assist in
developing and implementing such a curriculum.
1. Government of India. National Population Policy.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; 2000.
2. Sexuality education: why we need it. http://www.
we-need-it [Last accessed on 28.08.2016].
3. Tripathi N, Sekher TV. Youth in India Ready for Sex
Education? Emerging Evidence from National Surveys.
PLOS ONE. 2013;8:e71584.
4. Chakravarti P. The sex education debates: teaching ‘Life
Style’ in West Bengal, India. Sex Educ. 2011;11:389–
5. Zimmerman ML. Annotated Bibliography of Training
Curricula for Young Adult Reproductive Health Programs
[Internet]. FOCUS on Young Adults; 1998. http://pdf. [Last accessed on
6. Simon L, Daneback K. Adolescents’ use of the internet
for sex education: A thematic and critical review of the
literature. Int. J. Sex. Health. 2013;25:305–319.
7. Mellanby AR, Newcombe RG, Rees J, Tripp JH. A
comparative study of peer-led and adult-led school sex
education. Health Educ. Res. 2001;16:481–492.
8. Khubchandani J, Clark J, Kumar R. Beyond
Controversies: Sexuality Education for Adolescents in
India. J. Fam. Med. Prim. Care. 2014;3:175–9.
9. WHO. Dening Sexual Health: report of a technical
consultation on sexual health, Jan 28-31, 2002.
Geneva: World Health Organization; 2006 p. 5.
10. Lal S, Vasan R, Sarma P, Thankappan K. Knowledge
and attitudes of college students in Kerala about HIV/
AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and sexuality.
Natl. Med. J. India. 2000;13:231–6.
11. Ramadugu S, Ryali V, Srivastava K, Bhat PS, Prakash
J. Understanding sexuality among Indian urban school
adolescents. Ind. Psychiatry J. 2011;20:49.
12. India Spend. Government Survey Says Teen Mothers
Down 40% In 10 Years. Every life counts.
india-worst-states-decade-518 [Last accessed on
13. Mukhopadhyay P, Chaudhuri RN, Paul B. Hospital-
based perinatal outcomes and complications in
teenage pregnancy in India. J. Health Popul. Nutr.
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14. Kishor S, Gupta K. Gender Equality and Women’s
Empowerment in India. New Delhi; 2009.
15. Kacker L, Mohsin N, Dixit A, Varadan S, Kumar P. Study
on child abuse: India. Ministry of Women and Child
Development, Government of India; 2007.
16. Young L. Sexual education compared across Canada
-National. 2015.
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17. Henry JA. Protecting Our Fledgling Families: A Case for
Relationship-Focused Family Life Education Programs.
Indian J. Community Med. 2010;35:373–5.
18. Fonner VA, Armstrong KS, Kennedy CE, O’Reilly
KR, Sweat MD. School based sex education and
HIV prevention in low- and middle-income countries:
a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS One.
19. Aggarwal O, Sharma AK, Chhabra P. Study in sexuality
of medical college students in India. J. Adolesc. Health.
20. Jahnavi G, Patra SR. Awareness regarding contraception
and population control among school going adolescents.
East Afr. J. Public Health. 2009;6:226–8.
21. National Population Education Project, Department of
Education in Social Sciences & Humanities, National
Council of Educational Research and Training.
Adolescence Education Programme: Training and
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22. Sex education: Why India should go all the way.
Times of India. http://timeso
articleshow/4449680.cms. [Last accessed on
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Rights Commission for the Universal Periodic Review
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regarding sex education in National Capital Territory of
Delhi. Indian J. Pediatr. 1999;66:527–31.
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24 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Sexuality Education:
When, Where, How and What?
An Indian Perspective
Dr. Adarsh Tripathi
Sex education is a highly controversial topic in India. Indian society being a sexually
conservative society, discussions and deliberations about sex education in public are
frowned upon and has resistance from many quarters. Though, sex education plays an
important role in development of adolescents into responsible adults, young people are
deprived of this in many parts of the world including India due to traditional ideologies,
religious values and cultural inhibitions. This article discusses important aspects of sexuality
education like content, modus operandi and practical issues of implementation.
Sexuality is an important personality dimension and refers to a whole range of behaviors
associated with the psycho-biological phenomenon of sex. Additionally, expressions and
experiences of sexuality are socio-culturally embedded, politico-historically inuenced and
behaviourally constructed and reected. Sexual health is fundamental to the physical,
psychological and emotional health and the well-being of individuals, couples and families,
and to the socio-economic development of communities and countries. It also has a
signicant inuence on the overall development, functioning and placement of an individual
in family and society. Awareness, acceptance and a clear understanding of one’s own
sexuality may prove to be crucial for an individual. Especially, sexual health, when viewed
afrmatively, encompasses the rights of all persons to have the knowledge and opportunity
to pursue a safe and threat-free sexual life.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Numerous denitions of sexual health
have been proposed. The most commonly used
denition is perhaps given by the World Health
Organization (WHO). WHO denes 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
inrmity. 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 fullled” [1].
Sex education plays an important role
in overall growth and development and helps
prepare young people for a healthy and fullling
life. However, due to restrictions in culture,
sexually conservative traditional ideological
views, religious value systems, denial and
embarrassment of society in general and policy
makers in particular, young people are deprived
of their right to receive proper sexuality education
in many parts of the world and in India also. As
a result, millions of young people around the
world are devoid of crucial information related to
sex and sexuality. Discussions related to sexual
health related topics are widely considered a
taboo in Indian societies [2]. Sex and sexuality
education attract apprehensions and obstacles
from wide variety of people in society therefore,
it still remains a controversial area. A large part
of controversy arises due to a misconception
that sexuality education can increase the sexual
experimentation among the adolescents and
that it would compromise the moral fabric of the
society. But, the truth is exactly the opposite.
Though, universal comprehensive sex education
was proposed in Indian schools by central
government, opposition from parents, teachers,
socially inuential people and politicians led
to banning this proposal in many states like
Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat and
Chhatisgarh etc as education is the state matter
in India and federal structure of the constitution
allows states to take their own decisions.
Sex and Sexuality education
addresses the biological, psychological and
the spiritual dimensions of a person’s wellbeing
and thus, helps young people to form attitude,
belief and values about their own identities and
relationships [3]. It has been stressed that sex
education is like immunization. It can help to
prevent physical, psychological, marital and
social problems related to sexuality [4]. A WHO
document titled ‘Developing Sexual Health
Programs: A Framework for Action’ has defined
a framework for operationalizing and promoting
sexual health across a variety of settings. It
identifies five key domains in which action
must take place if the sexual health of people
is to be promoted, namely, laws; policies and
human rights; education; society and culture;
economics and health systems [5]. It largely
remains relevant to Indian situation also. A
conceptual framework for sexuality education
is presented in figure 1.
26 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
When Should Sexuality Education
Begin ?
It is a lifelong process of acquiring
information, forming attitude, belief and values.
It should begin whenever a child asks questions,
regardless of the age of the child [4]. Children
are curious about almost everything they see
and sexuality is no exception. Age appropriate
scientic and objective information, honest
and frank responses assures that children can
develop a healthy outlook for sexuality. Although,
there is virtually no lower age limit to start this
education, the level and degree of information
will greatly vary according to the intellectual
development and understanding of an individual.
Contrary to popular belief, it does not increases
further or inappropriate curiosity of the child [6].
Parents should disclose the correct names of
genital organs to their children, else they learn
slang words from friends or media. Information
should be provided before it is needed. Early and
appropriate sexuality education increases the
comfort and condence of interaction on child in
such matters and help in protecting children from
potential sexual abuse by making them vocal
and seeking early help if any untoward things
How and Where can Sexuality
Education be Given?
Sexuality education can be imparted in
many forms and settings. It can be formal, and
informal both for in and out of the school. It is
better to include overall health promotion and
disease prevention model [3]. Often, it is taught
in a graded manner like every other subject.
Gender, culture, social perspective and religious
sensitivity should be understood and can be
incorporated as far as practicable. Permission of
parents can be sought and it can be kept optional
if it is provided in schools. In the long run, this
increases the acceptance and the effectiveness
of the education. The subject is an emotional one,
therefore, the language, the manner of conducting
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
and the setting provided should be socially
acceptable. There should be transparency, fair
communication with parents and possibility of
receiving feedbacks for the programs. Studies
have found that comprehensive school-based sex
education interventions adapted from effective
programs and those involving a range of school-
based and community-based components can
have the largest impact [7]. Integration of sexual
health with the overall health promotion program
can be ideal. Selection of trainers is an important
aspect and should be done very carefully. An
open, honest, modest and considerate approach
is needed for the trainer. A proper training of the
trainer too is essential before starting formal
sexuality educational programs.
What is Taught in Sexuality
Sexuality education programs are likely
to be more effective if it approaches sexuality
in a more positive way. Various programs have
different components of sexuality education. Many
a times, people involved in sexuality education
have experienced defensive reactions and
outright oppositions. Hence, sexuality education
is sometimes disguised with a variety of other
names like Family Life Education, Population
Education or Adolescent Health Education.
Appropriate contents of sexuality
education are framed in a way that participants
would be able to gain a positive view of sexuality,
have information and skills about taking care
of and promoting sexual health, prepare for
mature, responsible and mutually satisfying
relationships, learn to enjoy, control their sexual
behaviours and understand a positive view of
sexuality, i.e. not merely focussed on abstinence
only. They should have freedom from guilt,
shame and false belief from sexuality, know
and avoid sexual abuse as potential victim and
perpetrators, stay away from unauthorized,
popular but unscientic sex literature and stay
away from quackery if sexual health related
issues arise [4]. It should include anatomical,
physiological and psychological development,
social and cultural attitude and values, common
myths and misconceptions related to sexuality
and sexually transmitted infections. Issues
related to homosexuality, gender violence, sexual
abuse and masturbation are to be incorporated.
It should also provide the participants, necessary
skills and attitude to negotiate transitions during
sexual developments, control unhealthy peer
pressure and appropriate communication
skills and language. Studies have found that
adolescent in India have insufcient knowledge
related to sexual health and even brief sexual
education session may be benecial and it
reduces the possibility of engagement in risky
sexual behaviour [8].
Sexuality education programs can be highly
strategized to help improve sexual and reproductive
health of society as well as effectively reduce sexual
diseases/dysfunctions, sexual abuse, gender-
based violence and prevent the spread of sexually
transmitted infections. If implemented properly, it
helps improve responsible decision making and
often delays the age of rst sexual experiment.
Flexible and innovative strategies are needed for
a country like India to full its needs for sexual
education. Gradual but consistent efforts can really
improve the level of sexual literacy in India.
28 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
1. World Health Organization. Working Denition of Sexual
Health, 2006.
topics/sexual_health/sh_denitions/en/. [Last accessed
on 23.10.2016].
2. Ismail S, Shajahan A, Sathyanarayana Rao T S,
Wylie K. Adolescent sex education in India: Current
perspectives. Indian J Psychiatry 2015;57:333-7.
3. Kapoor I, Britton A. Comprehensive sexuality education.
In Kar N & Kar GC editors. Comprehensive textbook of
sexual medicine. 2nd edition. Jaypee bother medical
publishers (P)ltd. 2014.
4. Prabhu V. Sexuality education for adolescents. 2nd
edition. Council for sex education and parenthood.
Chennai, India, 2014.
5. World Health Organisation. Developing Sexual Health
Programmes: a framework for action. 2010. http:// apps.
10.22-eng. pdf [Last accessed on 23.10.2016].
6. Shortridge JL. SIECUS is pioneering a worldwide
sexuality education effort. SIECUS report. 1996;
7. Fonner VA, Armstrong KS, Kennedy CE, O’Reilly KR,
Sweat MD. School Based Sex Education and HIV
Prevention in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A
Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE.2014
Mar 4; 9(3): e89692.
8. Kalkute JR, Chitnis UB, Mamulwar MS, Bhawalkar
JS, Dhone AB, Pandage AC. A study to assess the
knowledge about sexual health among male students
of junior colleges of an urban area. Med J DY Patil Univ
PC PNDT Regd. No. BLS/35/2016
Clinical Est. Regd. No. - 1894/16
MD ( O & G )
M : 8456929501
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Sex Education:
Understanding the Western Model
Dr. Ananya Choudhury | Dr. Khushboo Bairwa
Sex education, loosely refers to some form of information pertaining to human sexuality
which may include the sexual anatomy, sexual activity, reproduction, reproductive health,
reproductive rights, safe sex, age of consent, birth control and sexual abstinence, etc.
Sex education may encompass some or all of the above mentioned areas of study.
Traditionally, some sexual information was provided to the adolescents, mostly prior to
their marriage by their parents. In the late 19th century, sex education in some form was
initiated in the schools in the western world. However, the sex education so imparted not
only lacked proper structure and factual information but also was provided inconsistently.
With the outbreak of AIDS and a staggering rise in the number of teenage pregnancies
in the west, increased importance was started to be laid on sex education. Since then,
various countries have adopted various models of sex education with various levels of
success and failure.
Sex education has been a major concern in the recent past in the west due to a number of
issues like teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including
HIV/AIDS. These conditions galvanized support towards spreading awareness among the
people, placing increased emphasis on the need for sexuality to become a part of school
30 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Coming to India, although we are
endowed with rich ancient literature on sexuality
in the form of Vatsyayana’s ‘Kamasutra’, the
current Indian scenario shows we are still far
behind in providing basic sex education to most
adolescents in the country, whether formally or
informally [1].The situation in India is quite grave
as there has been little provision in place for
imparting formal training to healthcare providers
and faculties dealing with this, which makes the
condition more challenging [2].
In the west, the overall situation is much
better as there has been a provision in place
for imparting sex education in schools. In some
western countries such as Belgium, Denmark,
Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, etc., it has been
made compulsory and has become a part of
the school curriculum, whereas in England, and
the federal states of the USA, though it is not
compulsory, they have preformed guidelines to be
followed. The role of the parents and the family
as a whole has also been duly dened by the
states, so as to involve the family as a whole in
sex education.
Sex education has been called by
different names in different countries such as
Family Life Education, Sexuality Education,
Sexual Health Education, Sex and Relationship
Education etc. These different terminologies
reect certain interest and values specic to the
Sex education is thought to be limited to
the basic anatomy, physiology and reproduction
[3]. Sexuality education seems to be more
comprehensive and takes into account the broader
context in which sexuality is experienced, on the
other hand some view it with suspicion as it also
provide information regarding homosexuality [3].
In the European countries, they permit
as ‘Sex and Relationship Education’ that has a
more comprehensive approach with additional
emotional touch, involvement of parents
and teaching wide range of subjects without
taboo [4].
In India, where till date, the stigma
associated with sex education still persists, the
term Family Life Education has been used to
dene roles of different genders in various social
contexts and in further providing knowledge to
maintain good sexual health in various stages of
life [5].
There has been no clear denition
of sexuality. WHO dubs it as an integral part of
personality of everyone, man, woman and child.
It is a basic need and aspect of being human that
cannot be separated from other aspects of life
and it inuences thoughts, feelings, actions and
interactions, and thereby our mental & physical
health [6].
In the USA, the sexuality information and
education centre (SIECUS) denes sexuality as
a lifelong process of acquiring information and
forming attitudes, beliefs, values about identity,
relationships and intimacy [7].
Likewise, sexuality is explained in
different domains which include cultural, social
and political domains across the globe and the
younger generation is taught accordingly the
concept of sex education in various forms.
Sources of Sex Education
Sex education can be obtained formally
or informally. Informally, a person can receive
sex education from parents, friends or religious
leaders. It can also be received from books,
magazines or from sex education websites.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Schools and healthcare providers provide formal
sex education. Even in schools, sex education
may be a part of certain subjects like biology,
health, home economics or physical education or
it may be a fully separate course in the curriculum
in high school or junior school.
Sex Education in the West
The surge in teenage pregnancies in
the early sixties followed by the spread of HIV/
AIDS pandemic led to the acceptance of formal
sex education in the USA. Sex education in the
USA has been broadly based on two distinct
models – Abstinence Only Until Marriage (AOUM)
and Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) [8].
Also, there have been newer concepts added to
these programs like Planned Parenthood and the
use of IT for dissemination of knowledge among
adolescent population in the manner that is most
acceptable and understandable to this group.
Abstinence only until marriage which
remains the most commonly practiced program till
date in the USA is driven by political & religious
mandates. These are mainly funded programs
by government and various agencies. The
implementation of these programmes are through
guidelines formed by SIECUS wherein education
is imparted from Kindergarten to 12th grade [7].
At the federal level, the US congress
has continued to substantially fund AOUM. In
FY 2016, funding was hiked to $85 million per
year [9]. This was approved despite the opposition
and concern from medical and public health
professionals, sexuality educators, and the
human rights community that AOUM withholds
information about condoms and contraception,
promotes religious ideologies and gender
stereotypes, and stigmatizes adolescents with
non-heteronormative sexual identities [7,8,10, 11,
Therefore, the major chunk of sex
education lies in the abstinence-only program
which is based on the concept of complete
abstinence before marriage. It urges young people
to say ‘No’ but lacks in diversifying the knowledge
in preventing high-risk behaviour, the use of
contraception, sexual orientation, etc. AOUM still
continues to be the main programme to teach the
adolescents, although the parents also desire that
their wards should receive a more comprehensive
knowledge of the subject as shown by various
reviews done in California-2007, Carolina-2006,
Texas-2011, Mississippi-2011 [13-16].
European Countries
Sexuality education is mandatory by law
in nearly all the countries of the European Union.
The content and quality varies as per social,
cultural and political backgrounds. As stated in
the Safe Project (IPPF European Network) in
2007, sexuality education aims at “disseminating
general and technical information, facts and
issues which create awareness and provide
young people with the essential knowledge and
training in communication and decision making
skills they need to determine and enjoy sexuality
both physically and emotionally, individually as
well as in relationships” [17] .
Sexuality education is mandatory in most
Member States of the European Union, except
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania
and the United Kingdom [18]. However, the
knowledge and attitudes towards sexuality education
varies between different states as well as within the
states themselves, i.e., in rural and urban provinces.
32 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
For example, in Austria, sex education is
mandatory in schools since 1970 and regulated by
the Ministry of Education; the lessons start from the
primary school level being imparted by teachers,
with the inclusion of parents [4]. In Denmark,
along with the formal education, external experts
such as prostitutes, homosexuals or HIV-positive
persons are invited to speak in schools about
their experience [4]. In the Netherlands, sexuality
education begins at the age of four [1].The Dutch
consider that sex education is necessary to instil
a sense of responsibility in youth regarding sexual
activity and to make them independent in decision
making and set their own sexual boundaries [19].
The Netherland model also ranked top in sexual
health rating among industrialized countries. The
Netherlands have the lowest rate of unplanned
pregnancy, abortion, and teen pregnancy in the
western world [20]. Rate of contraception used at
rst intercourse touches 85% here [21]. However,
in Poland, discussion on sexuality is a taboo at
school as well as at home. In Spain, the subject is
hardly ever taught in schools in rural areas.
In the United Kingdom, sex education is
better known as Sex and Relationship Education,
which is imparted in schools and starts at the age
of 11, through a nationwide biological curriculum
known as Sex and Relationship Guidance
published in 2000. However, it provides freedom
to the parents to withdraw their children from such
courses but not from the curriculum itself.
According to the report, ‘Sexuality
Education in Europe’ Sweden is a pioneer as far
as sexuality education is concerned as they have
a teen birth rate of 7 per 1000 lower than France,
Canada and Great Britain [22] and lower teenage
abortion of 17.2 per 1000 [23]. It follows a national
curriculum for sexuality education and follows
guidelines and policies by the Swedish National
Agency for Education. Their aim is to promote
awareness and openness and to avoid ignorance
and risky behaviours among young people by
providing teaching methods like group education,
individual counselling as well as awareness
campaigns on condoms and other activities.
Overall, the best practises are observed
in Benelux, Nordic countries, France and
Germany [21]. Though, there have been great
variations and disparities observed among
the European states, the overall provision of
sex education has proven an uphill task and
Implication and Success
Around the globe, there have been
multiple ways of teaching and various programmes
are ongoing to teach the important aspect of
sexuality and its implications in life. However,
there have been mixed opinion regarding the
need to impart it in schools, age of starting the
education, what to teach, how to convey the
information. Family and cultural values, religious
restriction and political mandates still remain to
be the major factors which guide sex education in
any country.
The success of any programme depends
on the acceptance of the people for whom it is
being targeted and the people who are being
affected. Thus, after having an outlook of the
various programmes and policies of the various
states, it can be presumed that the adolescent
group of population requires that, such information,
should be provided in a cordial environment and
that the programme should understand the needs
and interests of this group of population apart from
the information being medically accurate. Getting
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
accepted by the parental population also is a major
factor which affects their outcome. Also, making the
parents a part of such programmes, undoubtedly,
adds to the success. To be in unison with the states’
cultural, religious and political sentiments too
adds to the future progress of any such policies.
However, if the conict of interest arises, the effect
could be the other way round. So, this has to be
well understood by the policy makers.
Health is a basic human right, so is
sexual health. The vital years of the adolescence
pave the future path of any nation. That’s why,
providing righteous and necessary knowledge
on sexuality becomes all the more essential. The
need of the hour is to understand that imparting
knowledge on sexual health is not only necessary
in the early adolescent days but also in their later
life, relationships, decision-making and many
future endeavours. Currently, there is also a
rising need of roping in information technology
to impart such education. Also, any states that
aims to target maximum population cannot do
so only by formal education schemes, there has
to be groups, NGO’s, community programmes to
target maximum audience, through both formal
and informal way of communication.
1. Vatsyayana M, Doniger W, Kakar S. Kamasutra. Oxford
World’s Classics. Illustrated edition. Oxford University
Press, 2003;xxv-xxvi.
2. Rao TSS. Some thoughts on sexualities and research
in India. Indian J Psychiatry 2004; 46(I):3-4.
3. Dyson S. Parents and sex education in Western Australia.
A consultation with parents on educating their children
about sexual health at home and school. Australian
Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society La Trobe
University, Melbourne, Australia. 2010. http://healthywa.
health/SexualhealthParentsShortReport.ashx [Last
accessed on 7.12. 2016]
4. Policies for Sexuality Education in the European Union
EN.pdf. [Last accessed on 8.12. 2016]
5. Ismail S, Shajahan A, Rao TS, Wylie K. Adolescent sex
education in India: Current perspectives. Indian journal
of psychiatry. 2015 Oct;57(4):333.
6. National Guidelines Task Force. Guidelines for
Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten–
12th Grade, 3rd Edition. New York: Sexuality Information
and Education Council of the United States.2004 www. [Last
accessed on 7.12. 2016]
7. Kirby DB, Laris BA, Rolleri LA. Sex and HIV education
programs: Their impact on sexual behaviors of
young people throughout the. World.JAdolesc Health
8. Mc Cormick KA. Sex Education in the United States-
Planned Parenthood. 2012,March. https:/www.plannedles/3713/9611/7930/Sex_Ed_in_the_
US.pdf. [Last accessed on 7.12.2016].
9. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the
United States (SEICUS). What’s New. Available at: http:// [Last accessed on 1.3.2016].
10. Kirby DB, Laris BA, Rolleri LA. Sex and HIV education
programs: Their impact on sexual behaviors of
young people throughout the world. J Adolesc Health
11. Schalet AT, Santelli JS, Russell ST, et al. Invited
commentary: Broadening the evidence for adolescent
sexual and reproductive health and education in the
United States. J Youth Adolesc 2014; 43(10),1595-
12. Douglas JM, Fenton KA. Understanding sexual health
and its role in more effective prevention programs.
Public Health Reports 2013 ;128(suppl 1),1-4.
13. Mangaliman J. California Parents Overwhelmingly
Favor Sex Ed in Schools. San Jose Mercury News.
14. Ito KE, Gizlice Z, Owen-O’Dowd J, Foust E, Leone PA,
Miller WC. Parent opinion of sexuality education in a
34 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
state with mandated abstinence education: Does policy
match parental preference?. Journal of Adolescent
Health. 2006 Nov 30;39(5):634-41.
15. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Sex
Educationin Texas Public Schools: Progress in the Lone
Star State. 2011.
16. Mckee, Colleen et al. Parental Survey on Sex Education
in Mississippi : Implications of the House Bill 999.
Jackson, MS: The Centre for Mississippi Health Policy.
17. Sexuality Information, Education and Communication
- Good practise in sexual and reproductive health
and rights for young people, The Safe Project, IPPF
European Network, WHO Regional Ofce for Europe
and Lund University, funded by the EC, DG Health
and Consumer Protection, 2007. http://www.europarl.
IPOL-FEMM_NT(2013)462515_EN.pdf. [Last accessed
on 2.10.2016].
18. Stull G. Sexuality Education in the EU- ‘Sex education’
in a broader social context, Library brieng from the
Library of the European Parliament, 03/02/2012.
EN.pdf. [Last accessed on 6.12.2016].
19. Ferguson RM, Vanwesenbeeck I, Knijn T. A matter of
facts... and more: An exploratory analysis of the content
of sexuality education in the Netherlands. Sex Education
2008; 8(1): 93-106.
20. Lottes IL. Sexual health policies in other industrialized
countries: are there lessons for the United States?.
Journal of Sex Research. 2002 Feb 1;39(1):79-83.
21. Weaver H, Smith G, Kippax S. School-based sex
education policies and indicators of sexual health
among young people: A comparison of the Netherlands,
France, Australia and the United States. Sex Education
2005;5(2): 171-188.
22. Darroch J, Singh S, Frost J. Differences in teenage
pregnancy rates among ve developed countries: The
role of sexual activity and contraceptive use. Family
planning Perspectives 2001; 33(6): 171-188.
23. Singh S, Darroch J. Adolescent pregnancy and
childbearing: Levels and trends in developed countries.
Family Planning Perspectives 2000; 32(1): 14-23.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Infertility is a global phenomena that affects people worldwide. In our society child bearing
and motherhood denes a woman’s identity. Hence, the social stigma of infertility impacts
women heavily. Primary prevention of infertility is one of the most important factors for
reducing its occurrence. Life-style factors, such as delayed marriage and delay in child
bearing on account of education and career, stress, obesity, smoking and alcohol use,
sexually transmitted infections, menstrual irregularities and environmental pollutants,
have been increasingly found to be associated with reduced fertility. Increasing the level
of knowledge of these factors may help to decrease the incidence of infertility by allowing
couples to avoid certain risk factors that might lead to it. Moreover, patient education has
been found to be a key aspect of patient satisfaction with infertility care. But knowledge
of the causes of infertility appears to be lacking among young adults living in various
developing countries. This review article focuses on the risk factors associated with
infertility among the reproductive adults.
Parenthood is a social role and the desire to have a child is a universal phenomenon. But
many people don’t get the chance to realize the joy of parenthood due to the infertility
problem. Infertility is a global phenomenon that affects 60 to 168 million people worldwide
[1]. Infertility affects one in six to seven couples. Infertility may occur due to factors in the
male (20%) or female (33%) or both the sexes (39%), or due to unknown causes (8%)
Reproduction & Risk Factor Awareness :
A Review
Dr. Akshaya Kumar Mahapatra | Dr. Sulochana Dash
36 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
[2]. Hence, evaluation of both partners is needed
simultaneously. World Health Organization
(WHO) denes primary infertility as inefciency
to conceive after a year of unprotected sex and
secondary infertility in case of failure to conceive
following previous pregnancy. According to WHO,
the national prevalence of primary and secondary
infertility in India is 3% and 8% respectively
[3, 4]. Usually, investigations for infertility are
recommended after 12 month of exposure, but
may be required earlier, if female age> 35 years
or there is a history of oligo/amenorrhea, pelvic
surgery, tubal infection or chemotherapy.
The most common causes of
male infertility are impaired sperm count,
undescended testicles, testosterone deciency,
blockage of epididymis and retrograde
ejaculation. The common causes of female
infertility include polycystic ovarian syndrome,
hormonal imbalance, fallopian tube block,
broids, early menopause and pelvic adhesions.
The importance of infertility as a public health
problem affecting the individual and the family’s
mental and social wellbeing has resulted in its
inclusion in the national program for reproductive
and child health [5]. Knowledge about infertility
is inadequate in many parts of the world. A
global survey of almost 17,500 women (mostly
of childbearing age) from 10 countries revealed
that knowledge regarding fertility and biology of
reproduction was poor [6]. Many women have
little awareness of the period of the month in
which they are most fertile and when to seek
treatment [7,8]. The risk factors for infertility
include smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption,
advanced maternal age, sexually transmitted
infections, and many others [9]. According to
Bunting and Boivin, knowledge about
fertility issues is a core motivator for fertility
problems [10]. Global surveys revealed that
inadequate knowledge of women regarding
fertility is the key culprit for the problem [11].
In Bunting and Boivin, study, participants
also showed inadequate knowledge about risk
factors associated with infertility [12].
Increasing the level of knowledge of
these factors may help reduce the incidence of
infertility by allowing couples to avoid certain
risk factors that might lead to it. This knowledge
may also help wider society to understand and
empathize with the infertile couple, which may
lead to a decrease in the psychological burden
on those who are affected. While there is
widespread acknowledgement of the importance
of patient education within the infertility eld,
there is limited research and probe into what
knowledge infertility patients actually possess
and how they gain infertility related information
in resource poor settings where health literacy
is typically low. Moreover, patient education
has been found to be a key aspect of patient
satisfaction with infertility care [13, 14]. Since
1978, IVF has become a well-established
treatment of infertility, but still the success rate
is far below expectations despite continuous
effort and newer strategies. According to HFEA
2011, clinical pregnancy rate is only 24.7%
among IVF treated women. In India, infertility
segment is growing by leaps and bounds.
Researches exploring the knowledge, behaviors,
perceptions and practices regarding infertility or
certain treatment options have been carried out
in developed countries, but very limited data is
available on the Indian population despite high
prevalence of infertility.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Risk Factors
Age and Fertility
Fertility varies among populations and
declines with age in both men and women, but the
effects of age are much more pronounced in case
of women. For women, the chance of conception
decreases signicantly after the age of 35 [15].
Fertility in women peaks between 20-24years
of age. Female fertility decreases with increase
in age, relatively little till age 30–32 years and
then declines progressively. The decline is 4–8%
in women aged 25–29 years, 15–19% in those
aged 30–34 years, 26–46% in women aged 35–
39 years , and as much as 95% for women aged
40–45 years [15]. A Dutch study observed that the
probability of a healthy live-birth decreased by
approximately 3.5% per year after age 30.
There is also increased incidence of
clinically recognized miscarriage rate & decreased
live birth rates. The miscarriage rates in natural
conception cycles are generally low before age 30
(7–15%) and rise with age, only slightly for ages
30–34 (8–21%), but to a greater extent for ages 35–
39 (17–28%) and older (34–52%) [15]. Success
rates of ART also decline as age increases due
to decrease in numbers of retrieved oocytes and
embryos, increase in embryo fragmentation rates
and decreased implantation rates [15]. Studies
showed that there was a lack of awareness of the
signicance of age for declining fertility among
childless Canadian women [16] and Australian
women [17] and among the university students
in Sweden [18]. But Bunting and,
study showed that people were better aware
of the relationship between age and declining
fertility [12].
Obesity and Fertility
Overweight is a body weight, including
muscle, bone, fat, and body water, in excess
of some standard or ideal weight. Body mass
index (BMI), Waist-hip ratio (WHR) and waist
circumference are the parameters used to
measure obesity. In women, obesity is associated
with menstrual irregularities, ovulatory dysfunction,
altered endometrial receptivity, decreased fertility,
and increased risks of miscarriage and obstetric
and neonatal complications [19]. Data from cross-
sectional studies indicate 30-47% of overweight
and obese women have irregular menses and
non-ovulatory cycles [20].
Obesity lowers the chance of
pregnancy following IVF, requires higher dose of
gonadotrophins, high rate of cycle cancellation
and has an increased miscarriage rate [21].
Obesity can affect fertility in both men and
women. Abolfotouh [22] and Brannian
[23] study also showed that obesity affects fertility
in both men and women. Infertile couples were
found to be more knowledgeable about this issue,
possibly because of the prevalence of obesity in
this group of patients. In Bunting and Boivin
study [12], participants believed that healthy habit
has an impact on pregnancy rates. Bunting and
Boivin study [24] showed that 72.9% women
were aware of the fact that a woman’s weight
affects her chances of conceiving a child.
Irregular Cycle and Infertility
Irregular or infrequent menses indicate
ovulatory dysfunction. Prevalence of an ovulatory
cycles is highest under age 20 and over age 40.
Most women have cycles that last from 24 to
35 days, but at least 20% of women experience
irregular cycles [15]. Normal cyclic menses result
38 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
usually from normal ovulatory function. Irregular
cycle is the most common clinical manifestation
of anovulation. Disorder of ovulation account for
20 – 40% cases in infertile couples. Ovulatory
dysfunction may result in anovulation or
oligoovulation. Ovulatory dysfunction occurs due
to thyroid disease, hyperprolactinemia and PCOS
disorder, obesity, ovarian failure and hypothalamo-
pituitary disorders. Menstrual history alone often is
sufcient to establish a diagnosis of an ovulation.
In Abolfotouh [22] study, it was found that
64% women were aware that irregular cycle may
be a cause for delay in pregnancy.
Effect of Dysmenorrhoea and Dyspareunia on
Dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation),
chronic pelvic pain, dyspareunia (pain during
sexual intercourse), cyclic bowel or bladder
symptoms, subfertility, abnormal bleeding, and
chronic fatigue are the common symptoms of
endometriosis [15]. Mean age at time of diagnosis
of endometriosis ranges between 25 and 35 years.
Prevalence of endometriosis in reproductive age
women probably vary between 3% and 10%. It
has been seen that 32% women of reproductive
age with pelvic pain; 9–50% infertile women;
and 50% of teenagers with chronic pelvic pain
or dysmenorrhea have endometriosis. Classical
studies suggested that 25–50% of sub-fertile
women have endometriosis and 30–50% of
women with endometriosis are sub fertile [25].
Fertile Period
Cycle fecundability is the probability
that a cycle will result in pregnancy and fecundity
is the probability that a cycle will result in a live
birth. The period in regular menstrual cycle
during which conception is most likely to occur is
usually spans from day 10 to day 18 after the
onset of menstruation. Sperm retains fertilizing
ability for 72 hours but the egg is viable for only
24hours after ovulation. In irregular cycle, it is
very difcult to know the time of ovulation and it
needs monitoring. In addition, cycle fecundability
increases with the frequency of intercourse during
the fertile window [26]. As a consequence, the
likelihood of conception can be maximized by
increasing the frequency of intercourse beginning
soon after cessation of menses and continuing
to ovulation in women having regular menstrual
cycles. The length of the fertile window may vary
among women, altering the likelihood of success
[27]. As a result, regular intercourse to optimize
cycle fecundity should be recommended. Thus,
it becomes all the more crucial to correctly know
about the fertile period for a woman, the period
when she may be trying to conceive. However, [28] study nds that only 46% women
were aware about it. In an Australian study, it
was observed that only 32% of women correctly
identied the most fertile time during the menstrual
cycle [17] but Linda Rae Bennet [29] study found
that 70% women were able to identify it.
Genital Tract Infection and Infertility
The second most common cause of
infertility, lower genital tract infection gains access
to uterus, fallopian tube and ovaries by ascending
through the normally protective cervical barrier.
The effects of PID further leads to tubal infertility,
ectopic pregnancy, tubo-ovarian abscess and
endometritis. Fallopian tubes bear the biggest
brunt in the process of infertility most common
infection related to infertility includes tuberculosis,
chlamydia, gonorrhea, poly microbial infection
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
and nonspecic pelvic inammatory disease.
Early initiation of treatment may not prevent
complications but can limit it from spreading
further. The prevention of pelvic infection is more
effective than treatment. In the Untied States,
nearly 30% of lower genital tract infection leads to
PID and results in infertility in 20% of cases. Post-
infection tubal damage due to PID is responsible
for 30-40% cases of infertility [30]. In Abolfotouch and Ali study, 50% of respondents were
found to be aware of genital tract infection as a
risk factor for infertility [22,28]. Since genital tract
infection, diagnosis and treatment can prevent
the major sequel to the tubal block, awareness
of genital tract infection as a risk factor is highly
required in our society.
Stress and Infertility
Stress, diet and exercise form a triad associated
with chronic anovulation and hypothalamic
amenorrhea. Psychological distress is found to
be common in couples suffering from subfertility,
which can be considered as both cause and effect
of infertility [31]. Infertility may impact patients
self-esteem and body image which may serve to
reinforce the potentially stress-inducing notion that
the individual is a patient with medical problems.
In a study, the authors concluded that infertile
women have different personality prole and their
stress level (measured by serum prolactin and
cortisol) were elevated compared to the control
group [32]. Coping with stress may ultimately
provide assistance to conception through stress
reduction and help people reduce treatment
termination. In Domar’s review of the association
of psychological distress and ART, outcome
concludes women undergoing ART procedures
report signicant levels of negative psychological
symptoms both prior and after an unsuccessful
treatment cycle. From a psychological standpoint,
women facing infertility exhibit signicantly
more tension, hostility, anxiety, depression, self-
blame and suicidal ideation [9]. In the study by
Abolfotouh, 72% of respondents were aware
that psychological distress affects fertility [22].
Fertility and Heredity
In general, fertility problems are not hereditary
but depend on the causes of infertility. Some
fertility problems are hereditary. Common causes
for infertility that can in fact be hereditary are
endometriosis, premature ovarian insufciency
and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Many
women are unable to conceive and deliver a
healthy baby due to genetic factors. Sometimes an
inherited chromosome abnormality and a single-
gene defect passed from parent to child results in
infertility. Poor egg quality or low ovarian reserve is
not generally considered to be hereditary causes
of infertility. Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
are generally not hereditary.
Environmental Pollutant and Fertility
Compounds which disrupt communication
between different cells affect the endocrine system,
fertility and cause reproductive dysfunction called
as Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). EDC
are thought to effect reproduction by directly or
indirectly mimicking, stimulating, antagonizing,
altering or displacing natural hormones. EDCs
also raise prevalence of endometriosis in
industrialized countries [33]. The possible
mechanisms by which environment adversely
inuences fertility can be physical, chemical and
psychosocial. Chemical mechanism is based on
occupational exposure, i.e., solvents, welding,
40 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
agriculture, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, air, food
and water. Pesticides, phthalates, heavy metals,
polychlorinated biphenyles results in irregular
menses, reduced fertility, fecundability and
decreases the success rate in IVF and lengthens
time to achieve pregnancy [31].
Exercise and Fertility
Women who are involved in strenuous recreational
exercise or other forms of demanding physical
activity, such as dance, have a high prevalence of
menstrual irregularity and amenorrhea. Evidence
suggests that moderate regular exercise positively
inuences fertility and assisted reproductive
technology (ART) outcomes but high intensity
exercise reduce fertility. A systematic review
identied only three studies examining the effect
of exercise on fertility in overweight and obese
women with PCOS [34]. Compared to diet alone
or no treatment, exercise helps improve menstrual
function and/or ovulation frequency. A study has
reported a trend for a higher pregnancy rate for
exercise compared to diet (35% versus 10%,
p=0.058). Studies of the effects of 12–24 week
lifestyle interventions comprising diet, exercise
and/or behavioral change in overweight infertile
women with or without PCOS report improved
ovulatory and menstrual regularity and reduced
risk of miscarriage compared to pre-intervention.
National and International evidence-based
physical activity guidelines recommend at least
30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity
on most and preferably all days of the week in
couples seeking ART [35]. For men and women
who are overweight and obese, achieving and
maintaining a modest weight loss may improve
fertility and improve other obesity-related
morbidities. In a study by Bunting and Boivin et
al., participants correctly answered that regular
exercise increases the chances of pregnancy,
but in study, only 13% participants were
found to be aware of it [28].
Smoking and Male Infertility
In males, it has been suggested that
cigarette smoking negatively affects every
system involved in the reproductive process and
epidemiological data indicate that up to 13% of
infertility may be attributable to cigarette smoking.
Gamete mutagenes is is one possible mechanism
whereby smoking may adversely affect fecundity
and reproductive performance. Spermatozoa
from smokers have reduced fertilizing capacity
and embryos display lower implantation rates.
Different articles have demonstrated a negative
impact of smoking on human semen parameters,
correlated with cigarettes smoked per day and
the smoking duration. Nicotine has a signicant
inuence on sperm morphology and sperm count.
Most of the reports agreed that smoking reduces
sperm production, sperm motility, sperm normal
forms and sperm fertilizing capacity through
increased seminal oxidative stress and DNA
damage. There is ample evidence [36] to suggest
that semen parameters and results of sperm
function tests are 22% poorer in smokers than in
nonsmokers and the effects are dose-dependent,
but smoking has not yet been conclusively shown
to reduce male fertility. In studies by Bunting and
Boivin, [12] and Daniluk and Koert study [16],
women participants said that they think smoking
reduces the sperm parameters.
Age and Male Fertility
There is modest age-related decrease in semen
volume, sperm motility and morphologically normal
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
sperm count but not sperm density [15]. In studies of
the effect of male partner age on pregnancy rates,
female partner age and declining coital frequency
with increasing age are obvious and important
confounding factors. A British study (adjusting
for the confounding effects of both partner’s
age and coital frequency) found that increasing
men’s age was associated with increasing time
to conception and declining overall pregnancy
rates; time to conception was 5-fold greater for
men over age 45 than for men under age 25 [15].
Sperm chromosomal abnormalities may increase
with age and adversely affect early embryonic
development. There is at least some evidence to
suggest that increasing male age may raise the
risk of miscarriage in young women. Rise in FSH
levels in men towards 30 years, suggesting age-
related changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-
gonadal axis [15]. The testes and prostate also
exhibit morphological changes with aging that
might adversely affect both sperm production
and the biochemical properties of semen. It has
been seen that there is decrease in pregnancy
rates and increase in time to conception with
the increase in male age. But there is little or no
overall measurable decline in male fertility before
age 45–50, and male factors generally contribute
relatively little to the overall age-related decline in
fertility [37]. Daniluk and Koert study shows
that increase in man’s age reduces the chances
of fertility [16].
Secondary Infertility
If a woman has previously conceived but is
subsequently unable to conceive despite
cohabitation for at least 12 months, then she is
said to have secondary infertility. According to
demographic and reproductive health survey,
prevalence of secondary infertility in India is
24.6% [30]. Most couples don’t think infertility
can occur with people who already have kids.
But the truth is that this problem is quite common
and growing in our country. Pelvic adhesions
caused by endometriosis or previous MTP
following rst pregnancy or previous abdominal
surgeries or hormonal disruption/imbalance after
the rst pregnancy could also cause secondary
infertility.Tubal damage (scarring and adhesion
leads to tubal occlusion) which mainly occurs
due to upper genital tract infection is the common
cause of secondary infertility [31]. Post abortal or
puerperal sepsis can lead to tubal damage and
peritubal adhesion leading to secondary infertility.
Infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria
gonorrhoea and genital tuberculosis are the high-
risk factors for tubal damage [15].
Infertility is a fairly common problem
affecting10–15% of the population. Knowledge
about fertility issues is a core motivator for seeking
treatment for fertility problems. Global surveys
revealed inadequate knowledge of women
regarding fertility. Although there is a wide spread
acknowledgement of the importance of patient
education within the infertility eld, there is limited
research into the knowledge which infertile patients
actually possess and also the way they gain infertility
related information in resource poor settings where
health literacy is typically low. Since the prevalence of
infertility is on the rise due to late marriages, delay in
child bearing in carrier oriented women, stressful and
altered life styles, increasing the level of knowledge
of these factors may help to decrease the incidence
of infertility by allowing couples to avoid certain risk
factors that might lead to it.
42 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
1. Neelofar S, Tazeen S: The cultural politics of gender for
infertile womenin Karachi, Pakistan. Gender Studies
Conference South Africa; 2006.
2. Thonneau P, Marchand S Incidence and main
causes of infertility in a resident population. Human
reprod1991; 6:811-16.
3. World Health Organization, Special Programme of
Research, Development and Research Training In
Human Reproduction. Ninth annual report, Geneva.
4. Report of the meeting on the prevention of infertility at
primary health care level, 12-16 Geneva, World Health
Organization (WHO/MCH/ 84).
5. Gupta N. Infertility: planning a prototype action plan in
the existing health care system. J Indian Med Assoc
2002; 100:391-94.
6. What you never know about fertility. World Fertility
Awareness Month 2006.
7. Blake D, Smith D, Bargiacchi A, France M, Gudex G:
Fertility awareness in women attending a fertility clinic.
The Australian and New Zealand journal of obstetrics &
gynaecology 1997, 37(3): 350-352.
8. Adashi EY, Cohen J, Hamberger L, Jones HW Jr, de
Kretser DM, Lunenfeld B, Rosenwaks Z, Van Steirteghem
A: Public perception on infertility and its treatment: an
international survey. The Bertarelli Foundation Scientic
Board. Hum Reprod 2000, 15(2):330-334.
9. Namujju J. Knowledge, attitudes and practices
towards infertility among adults 18–40 years in
Kalisizo, Rakai District in Uganda. Uganda Scholarly
Digital Library, thesis, 2008.
10. Bunting L, Boivin J. Decision-making about seeking
medical advice in an internet sample of women trying to
get pregnant. Hum Reprod 2007;22: 1662–1668.
11. What you never know about fertility. World Fertility
Awareness Month 2006.
12. Bunting L, Boivin J. Knowledge about infertility risk
factors, fertility myths and illusory benets of healthy
habits in young people. Hum Reprod. 2008;23(8):1858–
13. Schmidt L. Infertile couples’ assessment of infertility
treatment. ActaObstetGynecolScand 1998; 77:649–53.
14. Souter V, Penney G, Hopton J, Templeton A. Patient
satisfaction with themanagement of infertility. Hum
Reprod 1998;13:1831–6.
15. Speroff L, Fritz MA. Clinical GynaecologicEndocrinology
& infertility, 8th edition . Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;
16. Daniluk J, Koert E, Cheung A. Childless women’s
knowledge of fertility and assisted human reproduction:
identifying gaps. Fertil Steril 2012;97:420–6.
17. Hammarberg K, Setter T, Norman R, Holden C,
Michelmore J, Johnson L. Knowledge about factors that
inuence fertility among Australian Of reproductive age:
a population based-survey. Fertil Steril 2013;99:502–6.
18. Scoog Svanberg A, Lampic C, Karlstrom P, Tyden
T. Attitudes toward parent-hood and awareness of
infertility among postgraduate Students in Sweden.
Gend Med 2006;3: 187–95.
19. Obesity & reproduction. ASRM committe opinion. Fertil
Steril 2015; 104; 1116-26.
20. Castillo-Martinez L, Lopez - Alvarenga JC, Villa AR Menstrual cycle length disorders in 18-40 year-
old obese women. Nutrition 2003; 19:317-20.
21. Maheswari A, Stofberg L, Bhattacharya S. Effect
of overweight & obesity on assisted reproductive
techonology-a systemic review. Human reproduction
update 2007;13(5):433-44.
22. Knowledge, attitude, and practices of infertility among
Saudi couples-International Journal of General Medicine
2013:6 563–573.
23. Brannian JD. Obesity and fertility. S D Med. 2011;64
24. Bunting L, Boivin J. Fertility knowledge and beliefs
about fertility treatment: ndings from the International
Fertility Decision-making Study. Human Reproduction.
2013; Vol.28, No.2 pp. 385–397.
25. Link TM, Endometriosis and infertility : a committee
opinion. Fertility and Sterility. 2012 Sep; 93 (3).
26. Stanford JB, Dunson DB. Effects of sexual intercourse
patterns in time to pregnancy studies. Am J Epidemiol
2007; 165:1088–95.
27. Keulers MJ, Hamilton CJ, Franx A, Evers JL, Bots
RS. The length of the fertile window is associated with
the chance of spontaneously conceiving an ongoing
pregnancy in subfertile couples. Hum Reprod 2007;
28. Ali S, Sophie R, Imam AM, et al. Knowledge, perceptions
and myths regarding infertility among selected adult
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population in Pakistan: a cross-sectional study. BMC
Public Health. 2011;11:760.
29. Bennett LR, Wiweko B, Bell L Reproductive
knowledge and patient education needs among
Indonesian women infertility patients attending three
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Mar 31; 98(3) : 364-9.
30. World health organisation. Sexually transmitted
infections, fact sheet N 110, august 2011.
31. de Mala JR. Principles & practice of assisted
reproductive technology. Fertility and Sterility. 2014 Aug
1; 102 (2) : 610.
32. Cxemickzy G, Landgren BM, Collins A. The inuence
of stress and state anxiety on the outcome of IVF-
treatment: psychological and endocrinological
assessment of Swedish women entering IVF-treatment.
ActaObstetGynecolScand 2000; 79(2): 113–18.
33. Heilier JF, Nackers F. Increased dioxin like compounds in
the serum of women with peritoneal endometriosis and
deep endometriotic nodules. Fertil steril 2005; 84:305-
34. The role of exercise in improving fertility ,quality of life
and emotional well-being-pre-conception health special
interest group. The fertility society of Australia.
35. US Department of Health and Human Service. Physical
Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, USA.
36. Smoking and infertility: ASRM committee opinion. Fertil
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37. Optimising natural fertility. ASRM committee opinion.
Fertil Steril 2013; 100: 631-7.
Our Vision
Our Goals
IndIan InstItute of sexology BhuBaneswar (IIsB)
• Aimstofacilitatetheintegrationofknowledgeand expertise across various
disciplines like medicine, psychology, sociology, law and ethics for greater
• Aimstoadequatelyaddresstheindividualsexualproblemsandsocialissues
• To bring experts of dierent disciplines to a common platform for sharing of
• Topromoteresearchonhumansexuality
• To impart training on ‘Sexology’ and strengthen the discipline of ‘Sexual
• Toencouragemedicalprofessionalstochoose‘SexualMedicine’asacareer
• Tocreatepublicawarenessonhumansexualityandgenderissues
• Toadvocateanysocialchangeforbettermentofmankind
44 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Sexuality Education in Ayurveda and
Dr. Saroj Kumar Sahu
Ancient Indian system was always favorable in imparting effective sex education in the
society. The erotic sculptures on temples like Khujurah, Konark and the popular literatures
on sexuality like Kamasutra, Anangaranga proves that the ancient Indians were open
about sexuality and sexual education for the betterment of mankind. This article discusses
ancient Indian thoughts on sexuality particularly described in Ayurveda and Kamasutra
which are still valid and appropriate in modern society.
India has always been the torch bearer of many scientic advancements, social movements
and reforms alike. Long before western scientists and sociologists could focus on sexuality,
an intimate subject to mankind, Indian medicine, literature and sculptures have vividly
described the subject. This article focuses on Ayurveda, one of the oldest systems of
Indian medicine and Kamasutra, acclaimed to be the oldest text on human sexuality in the
world. Ayurveda considers sex as a part and parcel of everyone’s life. Making proper use of
Rasayans, one becomes endowed with good physique, potency, strength, and complexion
and, in turn, becomes sexually exhilarated and sexually potent. Rasayans act inside the
human body by modulating the neuro-endocrino-immune system. Vaajikaran Rasayan is
the special category of Rasayan, which improves the reproductive system and enhances
sexual function. Vatsayana’s Kamasutra similarly ascribes a deep, positive value to sex.
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
According to the ancient text, sex isn’t simply for
reproduction, but positive sexuality also matters.
Sex is pivotal to one’s physical and mental health.
Kamasutra also offers a fascinating account of
human psychology [1,2].
Ayurveda (Rules for Healthy Life)
Ayurveda considers sex as a part and
parcel of everyone’s life. But as with most of the
rules of life, control and moderation are the keys
to a healthy sex life. Here are a few healthy sex
rules as outlined in ancient Ayurveda text books.
1. Sex should only be done with man on top
position. In olden days, when sex was
predominantly seen as the way to beget
children this concept was prescribed for better
conception. This sex position facilitates the
entry of semen into the vagina properly.
2. Sex should be avoided during the menstrual
period. Sex should not be done with a partner
whose private parts are dirty, who are too
obese or very emaciated. Sex should be
avoided soon after delivery and with pregnant
women. Like wise, the rules proscribes Sex
when one feels the urge to urinate or defecate.
Sex should also not be done in uncomfortable
postures, as it may lead to injury.
3. Sex should not be done with a woman, other
than one’s wife. As a guiding rule, Ayurveda
strictly recommends delity and faithfulness
between partners. It concentrates more on love
factor than lust factor. According to Ayurveda,
sex should not be done with animals like the
goat, buffalo, etc. Ayurveda strongly stands
against bestiality. It recommends avoiding
body orices which are non-sexual like oral,
anal, etc., for penetrative sex. It advises to
avoid sex in the abode of the teacher, gods
and kings, in monasteries, burial grounds,
places of torture and of sacrice and meeting
of four roads. It also clearly lays down that
sex should not be done with children and old
women. One should avoid violence during
sex. Ayurveda considers sex as the means
to express mutual love and respect and not
anger, enmity and hatred. Sex should also not
be done with the person who does not possess
good mental qualities. One sex partner may
take advantage of the other.
4. One should not indulge in sex after a heavy
meal. Sex is also a form of exercise. This
advice is akin to the rule that one should not
do exercise immediately after meals. It may
cause indigestion problems and Vatadosha.
Similarly, sex should not be done with hunger
and thirst. When one is hungry, there is
already increase of Vata and Pitta in the body.
If somebody do sex when hungry, it may cause
Vata and Pitta related issues like dizziness,
headache, bloating, gastritis, etc.
5. One should not indulge in sex during illness.
As per Ayurveda, sex and immunity power are
inter-related. The immunity power is explained
with the term Ojas. During illness, Ojas is
depleted. If one indulges in sex when one
is ill, it would further deplete the Ojas. This
will delay the healing process. Abstinence
is highly recommended during youth which
boosts immunity [3,4,5].
6. After sexual intercourse, one should take bath,
46 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
apply scented paste, expose to cool breeze,
drink syrup prepared from sugar candy, cold
water, milk, meat juice, soup, Sura (fermented
liquor prepared from grains), Prasanna ( clear
supernatant uid of Sura) and then go to
sleep; By these, the vigour of the body returns
quickly to its abode again [6].
7. When it it comes to frequency, Ayurveda vividly
outlines sex frequency in different seasons of
a year for couples. During winter, person can
have sex every day. This is because, the body
strength is maximum during Shita (winters).
The frequency should be once in three days in
Vasanta (spring season) and Sharat (autumn
season) because of moderate body strength
during these seasons. The season with the
lowest recommended frequency are Varsha
(rainy) and Nidagha (summer) i.e., once in 15
days owing to low body strength during these
seasons. Ayurveda cautions against having
sex on days of special signicance (new-
moon, full-moon, eclipse, festivals, mourning
days and others). This technique gives a
break to both the partners from sex and brings
back freshness.
8. As per Ayurveda, if one indulges in improper
sex act, it may lead to giddiness, exhaustion,
weakness of the thighs, loss of strength,
depletion of tissues, loss of acuity of senses
and premature death. If one obeys the
prescribed sex rules, it would lead to good
memory, intelligence, long and healthy life,
nourishment, acuity of sense organs, good
physical strength and slow ageing process.
In Charak Samhita, Chikitsasthana,
Chapter II, sutra 40, it is mentioned that a person
desirous of longevity should not enter into sexual
activities before the age of sixteen years. Similarly
in sutra 41 & 42, it is mentioned that a young boy
of tender age does not possess all the tissue
elements in their matured form. If he enters into a
sex act, his body gets dried up like a pond having
little water [3,5].
In Sanskrit, Vaji means horse, the
symbol of sexual potency and performance.
Thus, Vajikaran means producing a horse’s
vigor, particularly the animal’s great capacity
for sexual activity in the individual. Vajikarana
or Vrishyachikitsa is one of the eight major
specialties of the Ashtanga Ayurveda. This
subject is concerned with aphrodisiacs, virility
and improving health of progeny. As per Charak
Samhita, by proper use of Rasayans, one
becomes endowed with good physique, potency,
strength, and complexion. Rasayans are helpful
in many common sexual dysfunctions, including
infertility, premature ejaculation and erectile
dysfunction. The therapy is preceded by living in
strict compliance with the directions mentioned
in Ayurveda classics, various methods of body
cleansing and other non-medicinal strategies like
sexual health promoting conduct, behavior and
diet. Certain individualized herbal and herbo-
mineral combinations are administered as per the
nature of a person according to Ayurveda [7].
As per Charak Samhita, the man
who seeks pleasure should resort to Vajikaran
regularly. The medicines or therapy by which
the man becomes capable of sexual intercourse
with the woman with great strength like a
horse, which endears him to women and which
nourishes the body of the person is known as
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
Vajikaran. The Vajikaran bestows contentment,
nourishment, continuity of progeny and great
happiness. Vajikaran therapy is said to revitalize
all the seven dhatus (body elements), therefore,
restores equilibrium and health. It offers a solution
to minimize the shukra (sperm and ovum) defects
and to ensure a healthy progeny [7].
Vaajikaran Rasayan is a special category
of Rasayana, which improves the reproductive
system and enhances sexual function. They act on
higher center of the brain, i.e., the hypothalamus
and limbic system. Vajikaran also claims to have
anti-stress, adaptogenic actions, which helps to
alleviate anxiety associated with sexual desire
and performance. Chauhan et al. (2010) in a
study showed that administration of Vajikaran
Rasayana viz. C. orchioides, A. longifolia and M.
pruriens ethanolic extracts modulate the level of
the pituitary hormones FSH and LH. This in parts
can explain the positive effect of the herbs on
sexual functioning [7].
As per Ayurveda, it is recommended that
persons under 17 years of age and over 70 years of
age should not consume Vajikarana preparations.
These preparations have to be consumed by
‘Jitendriyapurusha’ or man who has control on his
senses and desires. If Vajikarana preparations
are consumed by ‘Ajitendriyapurusha’ or man who
has lost control over his senses and desire, it may
prove harmful to the society [6].
Kamasutra (Principles of Sexuality)
Kamasutra is the oldest existing Indian
text about sexual pleasure. It is believed to be
a digest of a large work by Nandi, an attendant
of the God Shiva, implying a divine origin.
Many also believe that Vatsyayana composed
‘Kamasutra’ (Aphorisms on Love), in a small
volume as an abstract of the whole of the works
of different authors such as Nandi, Shvetaketu,
Dattaka, Babhravya, Charayana, Suvarnanabha,
Ghotakamukha, Gonardiya, Gonikaputra and
Kuchumara etc. Kamasutra is considered to be
the most famous guide to sensual pleasure ever
written, indeed, one of the most notorious books
in the history of the world. Its acute insights into
human nature are still relevant today [8,9].
The part of the Kama Shastra, which
treats the sexual union, is also called ‘Sixty-four
(Chatushshashti). The followers of Babhravya
say, on the other hand, this part contains eight
subjects, viz., the embrace, kissing, scratching
with the nails or fingers, biting, lying down,
making various sounds, playing the part of
a man, and the mouth congress. Each of
these subjects being of eight kinds, and eight
multiplied by eight being sixty-four, this part is
therefore named ‘sixty-four’. But Vatsyayana
affirms that as this part contains also the
subjects, including striking, crying, the acts of
a man during congress, the various kinds of
congress, and other subjects, the name `sixty-
four’ is given to it only accidentally [8,10].
Besides the treatise of Vatsyayana,
the following works on the same subject are
procurable in India: The Ratirahasya (secrets of
love), The Panchasakya (the ve arrows), The
Smara Pradipa (the light of love), The Ratimanjari
(the garland of love), The Rasmanjari (the sprout
of love), The Ananga Ranga ( the stage of love)
and Kamaledhiplava (a boat in the ocean of love)
Sexual Union with respect to Size, Endurance and
A distinctive feature of the Kamasutra is its
48 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
classication of men and women according to the
size of their genitals so that couples can combine
for maximum pleasure. Positions that work well
for couples of equal size may not be as good
for couples of unequal size. Small, medium,
and large genitals go together in different
combinations, or unions. Thus, the best unions
are small with small, medium with medium, and
large with large. Union with one size larger or
smaller is high or low; union with two sizes larger
or smaller is very high or very low. Males are
differentiated as hare, bull, or stallion according
to the size of their sexual organ and females are
dened as doe, mare, or elephant cow. Thus,
there are three equal sexual unions when there
is intercourse between similar partners. With
permutations, there are six unequal genital
combinations. When genitals of unequal size
are combined and the man’s is larger, there are
two high unions with the combinations ordered
stepwise. Non contiguous sizes make a very
high union. In the opposite case, there are two
low unions, and noncontiguous sizes make a
very low one. Among these, the equal unions
are the best. A man has dull sexual energy, if
he is not sexually excited during intercourse,
if he shows little virility, and if he cannot stand
wounds. The same goes for the woman also.
In the same manner, lovers are quick, average,
and long-lasting when it comes to endurance.
But there is a dispute regarding the woman. A
woman does not reach orgasm just like a man.
Her sexual itch is continually being removed by
the man. When she is suffused with a sensation
of psychological pleasure, she experiences a
different feeling called sexual satisfaction. Thus,
women are fond of a lover with sexual staying
power. They are unhappy, if a man’s sexual
energy runs out before they have reached the
climax [8,11].
Men’s pleasure comes at the end of
the sexual act, whereas, the pleasure of women
is continuous. Woman’s genital uid is also
visible, just like that of a man. But the difference
in approach and the difference in psychology
among man and woman towards sex is due to
nature; the man as the active partner and the
woman as the passive receptacle. The man is
satised thinking, that he is the attacker, while
the woman thinks, she is being attacked. Both
the partners turn unhappy if a man’s sexual
energy runs out and they have not reached
climax [8,11].
Sexual Union According to Passion and Time
There are nine kinds of union in terms
of the force of passion or carnal desire in the
partners. A man is called a man of small passion if
his desire at the time of sexual union is not great,
his semen is scanty, and if he cannot bear the
warm embraces of the female. Similarly, there
are men of middling passion, and men of intense
passion. In the same way, women are supposed
to have the three degrees of passion or sexual
feeling as specied above in the case of men.
Lastly, according to time, there are three kinds of
men and women, the short-timed, the moderate-
timed, and the long-timed. Vatsyayana is of the
opinion that the semen of the female falls in
the same way as that of the male. In regard to
time, there are nine kinds of sexual intercourse.
There being, thus, nine kinds of union with
regard to dimensions, force of passion, and time,
respectively. By making combinations of these,
innumerable kinds of unions would be produced.
At the rst time of sexual union, the passion of
December | 2016 Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
the male is intense, and his time is short, but in
subsequent unionson the same day, the reverse
is the case. With the female, however, it is the
contrary, for at the rst time her passion is weak,
and her time is long, but on subsequent occasions
on the same day, her passion is intense and her
time short, until her passion is satised. They are
unhappy if a man’s sexual energy runs out and
they have not reached climax [8,11].
Women Acting the Part of a Man and of the Work of
a Man
When a woman sees that her lover is
fatigued by constant congress, without having his
desire satised, she should, with his permission,
lay him down upon his back, and give him
assistance by acting his part. She may also do
this to satisfy the curiosity of her lover, or her own
desire of novelty. There are two ways of doing this.
First, at the time of the congress when she turns
round, and gets on the top of her lover, in such
a manner as to continue the congress, without
obstructing the pleasure of it. Second, the female
acting the man’s part from the beginning of the
congress. A woman during her monthly courses,
a woman who has been lately conned, and a fat
woman should not be made to act the part of a
man [8,11].
Both Ayurveda and Kamasutra have
vividly described human sexuality. In Charak
Samhita, Chikitsasthana, Chapter 1, Sutras 3 &
4, it is mentioned that a person should always
seek the intake of aphrodisiacs because, he can
earn dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth),
priti (love) and yasas (fame) through this therapy
only. A person gets these benets through his
progeny and the aphrodisiac therapy enables him
to procreate children. A sexually excited female
partner is the aphrodisiac par excellence. She
is the receptacle of the sex act. Kamasutra also
says man, the period of whose life is one hundred
years should practice Dharma, Artha and Kama
at different times and in such a manner that they
may harmonize together and not clash in any
way. He should acquire learning in his childhood,
in his youth and middle age, he should attend to
Artha and Kama, and in his old age, he should
perform Dharma, and thus seek to gain Moksha,
i.e., release from further transmigration.
The Kamasutra of Vatsayana ascribes
a deep, positive value to sex: it isn’t simply for
reproduction, sexual happiness also matters, and
it’s important for one’s physical and mental health.
It also gives a fascinating account of human
psychology. In his discussion of harem intrigues,
seductions, and liaisons, Vatsyayana brilliantly
analyses the vulnerabilities and frailties of the
human mind. This is where the Kamasutra is truly
universal, since his analysis of human nature is
still recognizable today anywhere in the world. It is
a work that should be studied by all, both old and
young. It can also be fairly concluded that those
early ideas, which have gradually ltered down
through the sands of time, proves that the human
nature of today is much the same as it was long
50 December | 2016
Indian Institute of Sexology | Bhubaneswar
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in-ayurveda.pdf Sexuality. [Last accessed on
3. Sharma RK, Dash B.Charaka Samhita, Choukhamba
Sanskrit Series Ofce, Varanasi, India , 2011.
4. Trikamji J (Ed). Sushruta Samhita of Sushruta, Varanasi:
ChaukhambaSurbhartiPrakashan. 1994.
5. Bramhanand T. Charaka Samhita of Charaka:.
ChaukhambaSurbharati Publication, Varanasi, Reprint
edition. 2007.
6. Ayurveda Sex Rules For A Healthy Life. http://
for-a-healthy-life/ [Last accessed on 26.12.2016.]
7. Dalal PK, Tripathi A, Gupta SK. Vajikarana: Treatment
of sexual dysfunctions based on Indian concepts. Indian
J Psychiatry 2013;55, Suppl S2:273-6.
8. Desmond L. The Pleasure is Mine: The Changing
Subject of Erotic Science. Journal of Indian Philosophy.
2011 Feb 1;39(1):15-39.
9. Prasad SN, editor. Illustrated Kalyāṇamalla’sAnaṇgaraṇga,
an Indian Erotic: Sanskrit Text and English Translation.
Chaukhambha Orientalia; 1983.
10. Vatsyayana. Kamasutra, The webmaster of Pitbook.
com, May 2001.
pdf/kamasutra.pdf [Last accessed on 12.12.2016].
11. Fosse LM. The Kamasutra, An English Translation
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Yoga/Kamasutra.pdf [Last accessed on 12.12.2016].
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Introduction: Adolescence is very dynamic phase in life and if child is not able to cope up with the changes then the effects on health are lifelong. Evidence supporting role of holistic/ comprehensive sexuality education empowering children in this coping process is present. But still the controversies exists in all countries about either acceptance, content or delivery of the sexuality education. To make curriculum more acceptable, engaging and effective, it is very important to take into consideration adolescent’s perspective. In present study, we tried to understand felt need of adolescents about sexuality education. Objective: To understand need for sexuality education. Methods: The methods used were question box, self-administered questionnaire, and name the organs in blank human figure activity all in different set of students. Results: 48% questions were to seek scientific information but extent was up to enquiring about sex toys.12% about emotional changes, 11% about cultural norms,9% about romantic relationship and 6% to clear myths. The basic knowledge about human body, pubertal changes was poor, more so in girls. The attitude towards pubertal changes was mostly negative in girls, curious in boys. The inhibition in mentioning reproductive system organs was significant in both, indicating attitude. 98% were willing to have correct knowledge about the pubertal changes and effects on life. Conclusion: The comprehensive sexuality education is unmet need in India. Taking into consideration perspective of adolescents, it should contain scientific knowledge and other relevant topics.
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Background :Post-Coital Dysphoria is a condition characterized by an array of inexplicable negative feelings such as - guilt, disgust, frustration and sadness that individuals might experience after engaging in satisfying sexual intercourse. Aim: The aim of the present study was to get an in-depth understanding of post-coital dysphoria and it's most common predictors amongst the Indian Youth. Methods: For the purpose of the current study, telephonic interview was carried out with a total of 20 individuals ( female=16, male = 4) between the age 18-26 years. Main Outcome Measures: Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was utilized to analyze the predictors of post-coital dysphoria amongst the participants of the study. Results : Of all participants in the current study (n=21), a total of 11 participants reported experiencing more than one negative emotion after sex for no apparent reason. The most common themes that emerged across the narrative of all participants were : Ambivalence, sexual abuse (childhood sexual abuse/adult sexual abuse) , self esteem, uncertainty surrounding relationship, unmet sexual expectations and stigma associated with engaging in pre-marital sexual intercourse. Strengths & limitations : This is the rst study ever to be conducted on an Indian population . It's qualitative nature allows a more in-depth understanding about it's manifestation and the personal experiences of individuals who report experiencing it's related symptoms. The nature of the sample and the unequal representation of men and women may limit the generalizability of the study.
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Context: Adolescent pregnancy, birth, abortion and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates are much higher in the United States than in most other developed countries. Methods: Government statistics or nationally representative survey data were supplemented with data collected by private organizations or for regional or local populations to conduct studies of adolescent births, abortions, sexual activity and contraceptive use in Canada, the United States, Sweden, France and Great Britain. Results: Adolescent childbearing is more common in the United States (22% of women reported having had a child before age 20) than in Great Britain (15%), Canada (11%), France (6%) and Sweden (4%); differences are even greater for births to younger teenagers. A lower proportion of teenage pregnancies are resolved through abortion in the United States than in the other countries; however, because of their high pregnancy rate, U.S. teenagers have the highest abortion rate. The age of sexual debut varies little across countries, yet American teenagers are the most likely to have multiple partners. A greater proportion of U.S. women reported no contraceptive use at either first or recent intercourse (25% and 20%, respectively) than reported nonuse in France (11% and 12%, respectively), Great Britain (21% and 4%, respectively) and Sweden (22% and 7%, respectively). Conclusions: Data on contraceptive use are more important than data on sexual activity in explaining variation in levels of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing among the five developed countries; however, the higher level of multiple sexual partnership among American teenagers may help explain their higher STD rates.
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Sex education is defined as a broad program that aims to build a strong foundation for lifelong sexual health by acquiring information and attitudes, beliefs and values about one’s identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health is considered to be a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well‑being in relation to sexuality and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity as defined by the WHO.[1] Psychological and sociocultural influences in the delivery of this education can increase the likelihood of effectiveness. Primarily, during adolescence (10–19 years) its provision is a crucial preventative tool, as it is the opportune time when young people experience developmental changes in their physiology and behavior as they enter adulthood.[2] The complex emotional state in which youth find themselves in, stigma surrounding matters of a sexual nature in the Indian society and widespread gender inequality faced makes it increasingly challenging for adolescents to attain the knowledge they need. Through what is termed “family life education” (FLE), we can hope to teach the roles and responsibilities of males and females toward each other in all relationships in familial and social contexts, thus endowing the knowledge necessary to maintain sexual health as they navigate through the vulnerabilities of life.[2] However, the existence of strong stigma and controversy handicaps any existing adolescent health programs, with them being incomprehensive and failing to fully address the main health issues adolescents are vulnerable to. These include several negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes,[3] such as early and closely spaced pregnancy, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infection (STI), HIV/AIDS, and sexual violence, the rates of which are already increasing at a disturbing rate.
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Background: Sexuality is an important part of personality of adolescents. The age of sexual debut is falling globally. The subject of adolescent sexuality is taboo in most societies. Since 2007 sexual health education program has been banned in six states including Maharashtra and Karnataka. This may lead to misconceptions about sexual heath knowledge and practices among young people. Objective: The aim was to assess the knowledge about sexual health among male students of junior colleges of an urban area and to evaluate the change in their knowledge after imparting sexual health education. Settings and Design: Pre-post-intervention study. Materials and Methods: All 245 male students of 11 th standard of all three educational streams of two junior colleges were included in the study. The data analysis was performed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences 18. Results: Science students had "adequate" knowledge about sexual health when compared to arts and commerce students (P = 0.004). Students whose parents were unskilled and semiskilled by occupation had "inadequate" knowledge about sexual health when compared with students whose parents were skilled by occupation (P < 0.05). Education of parents had positive effect on the knowledge about sexual health of students (P = 0.062). In posttest, the knowledge about sexual health of students was found to have increased significantly when compared to pretest. The mean posttest score was 12.61 (standard deviation [SD] 3.12), which was significantly higher than the mean pretest score of 6.34 (SD 3.23) (P < 0.001). Students from nuclear families had "adequate" knowledge about sexual health when compared to students from joint families (P = 0.158) Conclusion: Imparting knowledge about sexual health in adolescent age will be beneficial to the students in avoiding risky sexual behavior. Such educational programs must be given due importance to achieve desirable behavior change among them.
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Context: Isolated studies indicate that pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among unmarried teenagers in India. However, little research has focused on sexual behavior among unmarried young people, partly because of the assumption that it is governed by traditional norms. Methods: Results of a 1997 survey conducted among 966 low-income college students in metropolitan Mumbai (Bombay) are examined to identify levels of sexual behavior. Multivariate analysis is used to determine correlates of that behavior. Results: Some 47% of male participants and 13% of female respondents had had any sexual experience with a member of the opposite sex; 26% and 3%, respectively, had had intercourse. Individual-level characteristics such as age and personal income had modest effects on students' sexual behavior, and family-level variables had no significant effects. The strongest predictors of sexual behavior were students' knowledge about sexuality-related issues, attitudes toward sex, and levels of social interaction and exposure to erotic materials. However, the results differed for young men and women, and the effect of knowledge was inconsistent. Conclusions: Traditional norms and the role of the family are losing their importance in governing young people's sexual behavior in India. School-based sexuality programs are needed that will provide students with accurate information about pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.
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Scientific research has made major contributions to adolescent health by providing insights into factors that influence it and by defining ways to improve it. However, US adolescent sexual and reproductive health policies-particularly sexuality health education policies and programs-have not benefited from the full scope of scientific understanding. From 1998 to 2009, federal funding for sexuality education focused almost exclusively on ineffective and scientifically inaccurate abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs. Since 2010, the largest source of federal funding for sexual health education has been the "tier 1" funding of the Office of Adolescent Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. To be eligible for such funds, public and private entities must choose from a list of 35 programs that have been designated as "evidence-based" interventions (EBIs), determined based on their effectiveness at preventing teen pregnancies, reducing sexually transmitted infections, or reducing rates of sexual risk behaviors (i.e., sexual activity, contraceptive use, or number of partners). Although the transition from primarily AOUM to EBI is important progress, this definition of evidence is narrow and ignores factors known to play key roles in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Important bodies of evidence are not treated as part of the essential evidence base, including research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth; gender; and economic inequalities and health. These bodies of evidence underscore the need for sexual health education to approach adolescent sexuality holistically, to be inclusive of all youth, and to address and mitigate the impact of structural inequities. We provide recommendations to improve US sexual health education and to strengthen the translation of science into programs and policy.
Sexuality has always been a part of the human condition and people have always wished to understand it better. However, to focus upon the history of sex education in the United States without recognizing that it extends much further back in the past two centuries of our nationhood would present an erroneous picture. Of course, what passed for sex education in the distant past was a weird combination of facts, superstitions, and myths. Many will say that this condition is with us yet, and certainly there is much still to be known. And it is true that sex education has been regarded as a specialized study only within this century. A survey of the various approaches to sex education prior to the 1900s, although extremely interesting, would be too extensive to undertake here. We will, therefore, be looking almost entirely at the contemporary history of sex education in the United States.
Women with endometriosis typically present with pelvic pain, infertility, or an adnexal mass, and may require surgery. Treatment of endometriosis in the setting of infertility raises a number of complex clinical questions that do not have simple answers. This document replaces the 2006 ASRM Practice Committee document of the same name. (Fertil Steril (R) 2012; 98:591-8. (C) 2012 by American Society for Reproductive Medicine.)
A thematic and critical literature review was conducted to determine what is known about adolescents’ experiences with online sex education. Four major themes could be discerned from the literature, revealing that: (a) adolescents report engaging with sex information online; (b) adolescents are interested in a number of topics, including sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy; (c) the quality of adolescent-targeted sex information online can be lacking, but adolescents can evaluate these sources; and (d) Internet-based interventions can increase adolescents’ sexual health knowledge. Inconsistencies in the literature are discussed and suggestions are made for future research.
Sexuality education for adolescents is one of the most controversial topics in the field of child health. In the past decade, policymakers in India have also struggled with the issue and there has been greater public discourse. However, policymaking and public discussions on adolescent sexuality education are frequently fueled by religious, social, and cultural values, while receiving scant scientific attention. To meet the needs of an expanding young population in India, scientific evidence for best practices must be kept at the core of policymaking in the context of sexuality education for adolescents.