Sex education for Children, education for Politicians.

I still feel dazzled by the recent drive of politicians across all spectrums, stuck in an age when the change of thoughts could be near impossible, to ban sex education in schools. Even the likes of Baba Ramdev speak boastfully about the need to have yoga than sex education in schools. But Mr. Baba is almost 50 years old, went to school till 8th and then to ‘Gurukul’. He doesn’t even have the slightest of idea of the s**t going on in schools today and speaks like a top-level marketing man on a role to promote his product/service. Sure yoga is great for an individual. But letting it be a substitute for sex education is like trying hitting a six with a plastic bat.

Just the thought of not having sex education in schools in this age, filled with negativity in the digital air and one click access to mind corrupting pleasure moments on the Internet, sends me in the state of excessive jadedness and paramount tension. India, with people high on the thought of sex and eve-teasing (not all), cannot be safe or even think of reducing the rise in no of cases of molestation, rapes (indignity towards women) or in young (below 16) people indulging in sexual encounters (a view supported by the SC).

Over the past 5 years, with the high intensity in the sales of video and camera enabled devices, there has been a huge surge in the exposure of privately held sexual proceedings, watched by millions worldwide quite to the embarrassment of the victims and their families. Curbing these exposures has been almost impossible for mostly it’s the victims themselves taping the exotic times, sure to be leaked. But the waves of curiousness generated to watch this brain triggering moments has seemingly surpassed the encouragement to be morally educated and professionally thoughtful. Sex, as a thought if imbibed in a child at a young age, could hamper his growth in being socially matured and his stance in differentiating when placed with options.

The stand that these politicians take to ban sex education is first that it will teach and encourage students to have sex when they are in schools. Gosh! I had sex education in my school when I was in the 10th grade. All we boys in that grade were simply bored by the biological terms that the educators were using. The reason! We all knew what sex was. It just shows the degree to which these politicians are ill-informed and are going ahead and ill-informing the society. The only good thing that apparently happened, is that we actually happened to see a condom and know the importance of it. Imagine. You are high in those last 3-4 years of your school with the thought of girls & sex and you do not know what a condom is. During my time (I graduated from school in 2002), sex was known to most of the boys right from the 6th grade. When I say sex was known, I do not mean all the technicalities and all the right-wrong stuff, but sex in its basic sense is. It was a knowledge shared even amongst the girls. And today in this high bit-rate internet generation, we are talking about introducing it in 8th grade. More than 90% (could be an understatement) of the students in that age would know what sex is. The only thing remains is to tell them whether their full knowledge about it is factual or not.

World Health Organization(WHO), way back in 1993, had carried a survey in which it found that the people who have been imparted with sex education in the school are more likely to delay the indulgence in sex compared to those not given sex education in schools.It also found that it reduces sexual activity among  young people and encourages the one who have already indulged in sex to have safer sex.Researchers found “no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraception.” Failure to provide appropriate and timely information “misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is, therefore, in the disservice of our youth,” the report called Effects of Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behavior says. This report was commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of Intervention and Development and Support, Global Program on AIDS, and the WHO.

So the basic argument about sex education through this political mindset tends to be so misguided.

The other argument they make is that our cultural values and heritage cannot allow sex education to be part of the curriculum. Let me get this straight. So according to these politicians, killing people on the basis of religion, hating people on the basis of caste and differentiating them on the basis of region and language fits our culture, but educating the kids of this nation with proper knowledge so as not to allow them to be victims of HIV and STD’s is disgraceful to this culture,especially in this land of ‘Kamasutra’, whose drawings and sculptures one would find around the caves and temples in India. The height of narrow-mindedness of these politicians is evident and as much as I hate saying this, I do not think I would even respect such a ‘Indian culture’, described by these politicians, let alone follow it, which puts the life of its own kids on the edge, especially being in a society where sex is given such a negative posture and sex talk is avoided as much as one would avoid standing on the edge of a 1000 ft cliff. Even the rape victims here are blamed for being raped, rather than the person who raped her and socially isolated(in a way tortured), not able to find a husband (those bloody man’s always want a virgin,no matter how much they f**k other women before marriage) and physologically disturbed(they have to accept  rape as an unfortunate event instead of a crime). I still do not know what ‘Indian Society’ these politicians keep babbling about.

“Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy,” said the parliamentary committee report. So having sex before marriage is immoral and unethical? Who are these politicians to decide what’s immoral and unethical. These are the same group of corrupted, extremist, vote-bank gamers who have made the culture of Divide and Rule thrive. Morality is an individual’s virtue and not a guideline to be labourously followed. And talking about health, I have never heard the issue of hygiene being raised and pushed by these politicos in this land where diseases flow as easily as a fly by the wind of a storm. This should not be a country where everything has to be decided by ethics, morality and traditional thoughts. The moral police that guard’s the behaviour of people are the same that takes bribe in huge amount. Rather truth needs to have a dictatorial stand. Truth needs to be embraced and put into effect. Only than can we expect desired positive results.

Whether sex education is important or not is not a debate which should involve the politicians or their survey,but the youngsters and their experiences (there are issues the youth can address better and clearly). Its the youth which has to address this issue,while the media being responsible and approaching and addressing their concerns.I am a youth and I know the importance of sex education,something which i have tried to express in this article. I can just hope that reality makes its present felt, and our kids would have a better and healthy life in the coming times.

How Cool is “Being Cool”?

A DANGEROUS trend is engulfing the country’s youth. This trend can be attributed to the technology, influence of west, lack of morality, etc. This dangerous trend is being ’cool’. This word is very subjective and its meaning has changed over the years. What was not considered ’cool’ few years back is the only ’cool’ thing today.

If I ask you when is a game not a game? The logical answer would be – when it can lead to death. But there are so many incidents that prove that teens seem to be losing their grasp of logic at a breakneck pace. The death of Bombay Scottish student – Gaurang Dalvi – a few months back, has brought into focus the risky pastimes that children indulge in.
Youngsters say that the choking game, in which they become semi-asphyxiated, enables them to achieve a hypoxia-induced euphoric state. They undergo a partial or complete loss of consciousness brought about by the intentional deprivation of oxygen to the brain for a short period. There are other games as well, in which children indulge for thrill. A travel writer who indulged in such game while in school says, “We used to stand by the side of the road and wait for a fast-moving car, and cross the road just as it was approaching. We did it for the thrill. But now I realise the mistake I made.”

Its not just about the choking games, but also with the latest mobile phones, branded clothing, apparels, gaming consoles, etc. Even television commercials focus on this aspect of ’coolness’ in today’s youth. That’s why you see Mahendra Singh Dhoni saying, Aajkal aadmi ki aukaat kapdon se pata chalti hai.” Parents also try to fulfil all the demands of their kids, which can not be justified all the times. This race to look ’cool’ does not end here. Youth wants to try everything available in the market for ’cool’ people today. Smoking and drinking is the next thing available. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas’ School of Public Health concluded that in urban India, kids as young as 11 are smoking and drinking. The principal investigator of the study, professor Cheryl Perry said, “As India becomes more westernised, more teens will use tobacco.” The Internet also promotes smoking and motivates the young people to smoke with catchy punchlines. One such punchline I came across was for the girls, which read – ’Kissing a non-smoker is like licking a rotten potato’.

In the world of young Indians, there is nothing proscriptive. They are open to everything from late night rave parties, body piercings, going around with the opposite sex, sexual relationships with multiple partners, sitting idle outside the classroom in the college, etc. These things define the ’cool’ culture today. The drug addiction has also gripped the youth. Most drug addicts are male, but there are several girls hooked on to drugs too. Most girls addicted to drugs are persuaded by their boyfriends to try them. Few get into it out of frustration. The ratio is 1:25. One must avoid friends who call you a ’sissy’ or ’chicken’ for not indulging in their ’pastimes’. You may say that it is an individual’s right to do whatever he/she wants to do. I agree but then there should be some thoughtful process involved in what one does.

This race to be ’cool’ is also taking its toll on children and youth as well. There is an increase in the number of cases of depression, stress, insomnia, anorexia among the children in the last few years. The prime reason being pressure from parents, teachers and especially the friends who want them to be cool and look cool. For a child, who does not believes in such nonsense, life is more tough. He is neglected by the classmates, teased all the time with lewd comments, humiliated and soon he finds himself under depression. He is made to believe that his thinking, values, traditions etc are very primitive and they find no place in today’s world. This, sometimes, leads them to take extreme step. To help them commit suicide there are host of websites, which promote the same. And, unfortunately, there is no control over these websites!

This race of being ’cool’ is very new in the country but is already a hit. In a fast-changing world accelerated by new advances in electronic technology, only a dynamic exuberant generation can put India on a strong footing. Thus, it is very essential for the youth to understand what is right and wrong and not to fall prey to the ’cool’ race. A strong religious base combined with strong family ties and high morals can help the youth if they find these things ’cool’.

Rag pickers in modern day India

THE RAG pickers are as much a part of our society as we are. Just that they do not have the most respected or a dignified nine to five job. It’s a rag picker’s pride that he is not a beggar or a thief. You will find them almost every where scavenging the garbage cans and the garbage dumping grounds. No, it’s not food that they are after, though if they find a half eaten apple or two, it would well be a bonus for them. And it is not just rags that they are after. But they are on a constant look out for plastic, clothes, metal pieces, boxes and a host of other things that you and I throw away nonchalantly every day.

Most of these rag pickers are young children. As they have no source of income of their own and are often orphans or street dwellers, rag picking seems to be their favourite pastime and their main source of income as well. They scrounge around every day as soon as the waste gets deposited early in the morning at the main garbage centres. But it is not as simple as just finding the stuff and selling it to the ‘kabaadi walla’ shops. The garbage picking industry has a hierarchal format with there being several middlemen who make the most of these innocent children, much like the organised retail industry.

Rag PickersIn the capital Delhi itself, there are more than one lakh rag pickers with most of them being young children. Young children for whom education has been promised from time to time, but this promise is never kept. Forget education, these children have to work incessantly in the most harshest of environments and yet find it difficult to make ends meet. The rag picker earns at an average about Rs 10-50 a day. And it is because of several middlemen that they lose out big time.

The government has tried to do a lot for the young children. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the free mid-day meal programme and many other initiatives. But how successful have they been. The metro cities have the largest number of rag pickers in the country. They are not people belonging to any specific caste but are there because they suffer from poverty and the options that may choose from in order to survive are either theft, begging or rag picking. But the begging industry is a much more organised one, not giving enough scope for survival.

It’s often that these rag pickers go down drains and nallahs in search of the precious wastes. You may not often see them, because they aren’t really a part of your world. They are the people of a side of India that is truly incredible. But the government’s initiatives to get these people out of this life that they are a part of haven’t really created an impact. Some serious thoughts need to be put into this by the government for this concerning the futures of lakhs of children who might otherwise have had great careers ahead but because of the wrong choice of profession, it was nipped in the bud.

It is high time to stand up and demand action. It is time to engage the disengaged. In all the name of modernity and development, let us not ignore the harsh realities that are a part of our society and do affect us in some way or the other. We are already losing thousands of these children to terrible diseases every year. At the age where they should be playing in the open, they are made to work in the most inhumane and suffocating atmospheres. The time is now to take action for the betterment of these rag pickers, else many of them will continue to sacrifice their lives.

A Truth little inconvenient…

I was though never insensitive to the critical and burning issue of environmental hazards, but the subject didn’t merit enough attention to put an extra effort in creative awareness. I used to really get agitated when I would see long processions of school children jamming the road. The scene was never a soothing one to my eyes when I would see students shouting slogans against those pollute the environment. The activity would further congest roads, ( be it of any city ) leading to unnecessary delays.

My views on subject drastically changed when recently I had a chance to watch an amazing environmental film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ that showed how man mercilessly cuts the tree that provides him shade in the scorching heat.
The film daringly showed how the industrial cities of the world have contributed in badly polluting the environment, depleting ozone layer and increasing toxicants in the air. It showed how the limited resource of fresh water has become unfit for consumption. It showed how the global warming has gradually affected glaciers and ice caps, raising the level of ocean waters and posing a great threat to the coastal cities. The scenes in the film predicted that within four to five decades the Earth would no longer be able to sustain life and that the end was far nearer than it seemed. The stark reality really jolted me out of the deep slumber I was in.
The knowledge of this grave truth calmed me down to a great extent that I actually began to admire those school children who walked miles to create awareness about our deteriorating environment. Today I don’t mind if I have to wait for a procession to pass, and I feel sorry for those who lose patience because they do not understand the gravity of the situation. The ignorance about the subject is too much and we have very little time left to reverse the process of self-annihilation. These school children are doing a great service to humanity and we must support them. After all, it is our own existence which is at stake…

Uttar Pradesh: The epicentre of Polio in India

Pulse Polio, an immunization campaign was established by the Government of India in 1994 to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio) in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five, against polio virus. However, a sharp rise in polio cases in India’s largest state has raised fears of the return of a disease that the country was close to wiping out, just three years ago. The health outlook for millions of Indians for 2008 may not be all that bright as experts say that the country will continue battling major diseases like AIDS, polio, malaria and tuberculosis besides concerns like infant and maternal mortality. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Union Health Ministry were optimistic about curbing the polio virus. However, as the year 2007 drew to an end, India continued to be the hot bed for polio, with 590 cases as against 676 cases in 2006. This has dealt another blow to the already crumbling public health infrastructure and delivery. There have been no polio cases reported from Kerala and Punjab in 2007. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar top the list of the polio affected states in India.

PolioThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Uttar Pradesh as the “epicenter of the polio epidemic” in the world. As per WHO estimates, the State accounts for 64 per cent of all polio cases reported worldwide. The increase has not just been due to mismanagement at the Government level; there are also other factors responsible for it. One such factor is the people’s apathy to such campaigns, which lack credibility. Besides, lack of information about the polio vaccine being administered and its availability is also greatly responsible for the increase.

An alarming factor is the resistance of people belonging to the minority community, especially those from the lower income groups, to vaccinate their children. Apparently, there is a belief that the polio vaccine causes impotency. Other factors responsible for the resurgence of the epidemic in Uttar Pradesh are the high density of population and the lack of awareness about the pulse polio campaign. Extensive publicity campaigns, involving film and cricket personalities, have mitigated the opposition to a great extent but still the cases are on the rise. It is very important for the Government to now formulate a proper strategy with the political and religious leaders alongside, to counter the rising cases of polio in Uttar Pradesh. Dispelling superstition should be accomplished by roping in local health workers to convince clerics who propagate against the vaccination drive. To control the menace from spreading its tentacles any further, we need to adopt a need-based approach and more scientific methods.

Women Unsafe in India

I found this article in Times of India.

A plastic surgeon accused of sexually assaulting his patients; a doctor charged with the rape of a 10-year-old; a mob stripping two women in public; a hotel owner held for raping a tourist; a Russian doctor molested and a UK tourist raped — all this in a span of less than a month. What explains this trend?

ViolenceAre we as a society reaching a new low? Or is it just that such cases are being reported more often?

NCW chairperson Girija Vyas says:

These men think they have the right to assault women and they are meant to be assaulted.

What’s striking is the change in profile of the molester. An NRI recently assaulted a mall staffer, another molested a cabin crew member on board.

Jitendra Nagpal, a psychiatrist, says:

Not only do we lack value education, but we also lack lessons in life skills. A person indulging in such acts may show some unusual traits as a child that need to be worked at. Parents and schools should not overlook if a child is short-tempered or moody. Children need to be taught anger management, methods to cope with stress.

Vyas agrees:

We need to teach children early that women must be respected and in this, a family plays a vital role. A child who sees his mother being harassed every day will never learn to respect women. Parents should be very careful about their action in front of kids.

Some blame it on the changing lifestyles. There is a feeling that youngsters are getting too much too early. Says B M Tripathi, senior doctor, AIIMS:

Alcohol makes a person loose control over self. Normally a person would not indulge in such acts but under the influence of addictive substances, it’s easy to lose ones’ understanding of what is right and wrong.

Nagpal attributes the spurt in such crimes to increase in work pressure and stress. Clinical psychologist Aroona Bruta refuses to buy this argument, though. She says crime against women can’t be a stress-buster.

“There has to be a pathological disorder that will make a person indulge in such acts. In most cases, molesters
do have an abusive history or they have been a victim themselves.”

She adds:

“The expression of sex has become very free. With information easily available on internet, TV, mobiles, it’s easy to fall prey to ones whims.”

Lack of fear of punishment also acts as a catalyst. Says Sandeep Malhotra, psychiatrist,

People know they can easily get away with such crimes. Even good samaritans do not raise their voice, as they fear getting entangled in a long judicial process.

He further adds,

“Maybe the country is not ready for a cultural transition. People are not able to cope with the freedom and open society which the country is moving towards.” Bruta says,”Men are not able to face competition from women. It’s a way to put them down.”

However, all is not lost. Says Girija Vyas,

Thinking pattern of men can be changed. It’s not that tough to teach them. All we need is to educate them young.” She adds, “Our law needs to be modified. We need gender-based training and a more sensitised media. Victims need to feel secure and have more faith in the police.

Adds Bruta:

We definitely need more stringent laws, but a strict and quick implementation of those laws is also essential.” So, is it time for a complete overhaul of our society?

Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life

Rarely do you come across a movie in which the audience applauds at the end. Well, here’s one that received a standing ovation. Taare Zameen Par has emerged as the best movie of the year. Continue reading Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life

Do we care for our disabled?

It was once said that the moral test of a Society lies in how it treats the sick, the needy and the handicapped. On 3rd December, the United Nations International Day for the Disabled Persons, let us as a society appraise ourselves, Have we really done enough for these people? Continue reading Do we care for our disabled?

World AIDS Day in India

Today is World AIDS Day!

Brief History
World AIDS Day was established by WHO in 1988. This day provides governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals with an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.

Red ribbon is International symbol of HIV and AIDS awareness. We are flaunting one in this post. Red Ribbon

As per UN estimations, 5.7 million of 33.2 HIV-infected people worldwide reside in India. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are states with highest number of HIV positive cases. Andhra Pradesh is planning to make a new law that makes it compulsory for the couples to take HIV test before marriage.

India is largest producer of cheap ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) that are used in AIDS treatment. Yet most people in India can not afford it. :( Sections of society most affected with AIDS in India are sex workers, truck drivers, gays, and injecting drug users. Yet this disease is not confined to them.

What We can do?
The slogan for 2007 World AIDS Day is “Take the Lead. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” Be part of those who are building better tomorrow.

World AIDS Day Poster

Here is a mini guide about what we can do to stop AIDS menace in India:

1. Indulge in safe sex always. Pass the awareness around.
2. Sex education is banned in several states. Campaign to reinstate sex education in schools. This is important considering the number of children who get afflicted by AIDS every year indulging in unsafe sex.
3. Fight not only AIDS, but also the stigma attached with the disease. Most people suffer AIDS in silence due to the fear of being shunned in society. Some of them are denied their right to live with dignity due to their AIDS infection.
4. Pass on the awareness that medicines are now available that prevent transfer of AIDS infection from pregnant mothers to their children. Most women do not request the medicine, even after treatment to prevent mother-to-child-transmission because of the stigma attached with the disease.
5. Join Stop AIDS in children campaign. Every year 330, 000 children die of AIDS. Lets take steps to save them. Again this is possible by stopping mother-to-child-transmission of infection.

Related Posts:
FAQs about AIDS
HIV-AIDS Do’s and Don’ts
HIV-AIDS stats in India

I also write at Visceral Observations.

Save Our Ragpickers!

Have you ever noticed the rag pickers who daily forage into the garbage bin near your house? They are the people responsible for cleaning most of the stuff we throw in our garbage!

Chances are you have never noticed these rag pickers, but these poorest of the poor rag pickers are the ones who not only clean our dirt but do more. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are 3 Rs for energy conservation and environment. And the 3rd R, Recycle, is taken care of by these ragpickers!

Save Them

In US and UK there are active recycling centers, where consumers come and dump their waste or a consumer’s waste is collected by recycling center. Electronic waste like LCDs and even tetrapacks are being recycled in other countries!

But India has no awareness like that. Here, recycling is taken care of by people, whom we more than often, relegate to lowest hierarchy of humanity: ragpickers and kabaris! Most ragpickers are young, little above the age to be called kids. Thousands of ragpickers as they sift through garbage unprotected, absorb toxins from the garbage. They are hunched for hours, which gives them several back and cervical problems at early age. They get numerous cuts and bites from rodents and the glass, needles and other things we carelessly throw in our garbage.

The other people involved in this recycling process other than ragpickers are: small middlemen, transporters, larger middlemen and reprocessors. Together they form recycling chain in India.

Ragpickers sell the waste to middleman called kabari. It is not easy for the rag pickers to be paid for their waste from kabaris, the kabaris want the waste completely sorted into different categories of plastics, paper, glass, metals. The rag pickers waste bag must be dry and clean so that kabaris accept it.

Delhi generates over 7000 MT waste daily. Studies estimate that these informal labour forces saves the three Municipalities a minimum of Rs. 6 lakhs daily. The meager payment rag pickers receive from kabaris is several times held back for various reasons, leaving these rag pickers hand-to-mouth. Bullies also snatch their hard-earned money. To save themselves from starvation, rag pickers end up into vicious cycle of debt. Often their earnings are held back by middlemen to cover previous loan. They are yet forced to starve! It is a scary profession.

It is sad that rag pickers who clean up our dirt and contribute to environment are harassed by both police and municipal workers. They need to bribe municipal workers to forage into garbage bin. Police, instead of protecting them, often beats them and forces them to sweep police stations and municipal offices.

What We Can Do

In US and UK, despite recycling centers that segregate waste, citizens are aware about segregation of waste at homes and work places. Whereas in India, if we were more aware about segregation of waste, these ragpickers would have less cuts, burns, backaches, allergies, dog-bites, respiratory disorders. We could be careful about throwing injurious stuff in our garbage bin.

These ragpickers are not beggars. They do the hard work. When will we recognize their effort and provide them at least basic amenities? Write in your comments if you have any ideas to work for the cause.

I also write at Visceral Observations.