Anju is a certified sex educator from the Indian Institute of Human Technology.She regularly conducts puberty,safety and sex education workshops for children and teenagers in Mumbai.A double graduate in law and Mass Communication,she has also worked as a journalist and copywriter for twenty years.She has authored two books and is currently writing a series of books on sex education for children and adults.She is also working on a sex education video for children.
She writes a guest post today, on my blog, about breaking that wall of silence at home.
The shocking rape of a 6 year old at a reputed Bangalore school recently, sent shivers down parents back. This was way too close for comfort. Most of us believe that these things can’t happen to our kids…kids of upper middle class families, studying in top of the line schools. Welcome to reality!
According to a shocking report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, over 50% of children in India are sexually abused at some point in their growing up years. This means that every second child is abused. Now that’s something to be really worried about!
Instead, we in India worry about our society and culture, which does not encourage these kinds of talks with children.Our culture supposedly stops us from talking to our kids, but why doesn’t the same culture stop people from raping their own daughters? We are the second most populated country in the world, yet we don’t talk about sex…we just indulge in it aplenty!!
Every second day, there is a newspaper headline screaming ‘Rape’ & ‘Child sexual abuse’ in some part of the country. But are we really listening? We momentarily feel bad, shake our heads in horror and resignation before turning the page, secure in our belief that it cannot happen to us!
Wake up! Child sexual abuse (CSA) happens across all segments of society and both boys and girls fall prey to it. And most of the time the perpetrator of the act is a person known to the child and family – a family friend, a neighbour, an uncle, a domestic helper…people who are a part of the child’s life- someone a child would normally trust.
Sexual abuse is not the only issue we need to speak about with kids. Growing up, changing bodies, changing feelings, sexual feelings, sex, sexuality and safety are important issues to be discussed with growing children. Sex education is as important as learning to read and write.
The word ‘Sex education’ is actually very misleading. It immediately conjures images of the sexual act. Well, talking about the sexual act is just a very small part of sex education – there is so much more to it than that. Infact, at times the sexual act is not even spoken about. So when you are talking to the children about the good touch- bad touch, there is no mention about the sexual act. When you are talking to kids about puberty, there is no mention about the sexual act. It is just in our minds that we have conjured up this big bad image of ‘Sex education’. Maybe, we just need to coin a new term to make it more acceptable.
Is it too early? Will it put thoughts in my child’s mind? My child is too innocent…I don’t want to corrupt him….these are just some of the excuses we come up with to avoid the talk.
All research on the subject conducted by various agencies all over the world repeatedly say that Sex Education does not lead to an increase in sexual activity…infact it leads to more responsible sexual behavior, delayed experimentation and more positive interactions with the opposite sex.
There is no right or wrong age to start talking to your child about growing up, changing bodies, unsafe touch, sex etc. It is the language you use that makes a difference. The way the information is presented to kids can be positive or negative and not the information by itself. Again, research studies say that the child will only retain what they understand and the rest of the information will be filtered off. It’s better to talk to them a year earlier than a minute later.
Having hesitations to broach the subject are fine and also natural because most of us were not spoken to as kids and we are clueless about the right way and time to broach the subject.
A growing set of parents want to talk to their kids, but don’t know what to say, how much to say and importantly when to say what! Fair enough, but don’t let these hesitations or limitations come in the way of speaking with your child. Find a way or devise a way because exposure levels of kids are high and the silence levels at home are shattering!
If you don’t talk to your child, google uncle will do the needful -giving them uncensored and age inappropriate information at the click of a button, causing a lot of harm. According to a survey by Times of India, the average age for viewing porn on the internet is 11! In this scenario,having that all important ‘chat’ with children and keeping the doors of communication open becomes very important.
The key thing to remember is that your child is your responsibility, your most treasured possession (if they can be called that!) Then how can you fail to protect them or fail to give them the information and skills required to protect themselves?Don’t let our so called cultural taboo take predominance over the child?
Break that wall of silence at home!
Anju Kishinchandani Sex Educationist
Out of the Box