research, sex, Sex education

Research, Round V

12th October 2015 : Alpha One Shopping Mall

A bunch of 12 year olds were hanging out at the food court, and discussing animatedly about what to order. We spoke to them about their classes and what they do in their free time. They all had an iPhone with an internet connection. They had little idea about what the act of sex involved and giggled every time the word was mentioned. They did have sex education classes in school, where a professional was brought in to speak to them about reproduction and masturbation. They didn’t refer to friendship with girls in a healthy manner and made fun of a friend who had a “girlfriend” . They referred to their female classmates as gai (cattle) / kutiya (female dogs), which we found very disturbing. They were happy, healthy and privileged kids who had a skewed sense of relationships.

Next we spoke to four 17 year old boys. They were shy and unwilling to even say the word sex, let alone talk about it. We gathered that they were from a lower middle class background and their sources of information were limited to friends and newspapers and an occasional pornographic film. They didn’t know about menstruation beyond something that the females in their families go through once a month. They were of the opinion that when the time comes they will eventually figure things out. Yet again they had no female friends, and found the idea a bit alien.

Later we had a conversation with two 15 year old girls whose friends joined in later. “We are not interested in these things,” one of them promptly replied when asked if they knew where babies came from. While their mothers were their primary sources of information and they freely spoke about these things with them, the rest had gained the little knowledge they had from friends or the internet. They knew the process of reproduction in theory but had no idea how the sperm reached the egg. Some of the other girls were unwilling to even meet our eyes and talk to us. They nodded and tried their best to seem inconspicuous. When we left them they immediately went back to taking selfies.

We also spoke to a few couples. All of them belonged to the upper middle class, their age varying from 17 to 27. While some of the people received a significant amount of sex education in school (school syllabus, external personnel, explainer videos), some of them had hardly received any. All of them believed that sex education is very important for children and teenagers. They recalled having received a lot of information from their friends. Some friends (supposed bad boys) seemed to know more than the others, and became trustworthy sources of such knowledge. Another source was the internet of course, including porn, for some. All of them mentioned having a communication gap with their parents in terms of this; sex being a topic rarely brought up within their households. And none of them had ever spoken to the parent of the opposite gender regarding these things.

Insights

  1. Young adults of urban India are more accepting of pre-marital sex as compared to their adult counter-parts.
  2. Younger teens while still shy about talking of sexuality have had some conversation about it at home.
  3. Exposure to a variety of media have made many, question the existing belief system.
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research, sex, Sex education

Research, Round IV

11th October 2015 : Kalupur Railway Station, Ahmedabad

Initially it was difficult to approach the families and start a conversation about sex.

We started talking to a couple of sweeper women. They openly spoke about sex and their married life. But some of their opinions were based on religious idiosyncrasies rather than science. To prevent pregnancy their infallible logic was to either not have sex at all or to indulge in it only twice a month when supposedly the probability of getting pregnant was the least (according to their menstrual cycles). In case they did get pregnant aborting the baby was not an option for them as they didn’t want to kill a gift of God. They didn’t know what a condom was and were distrustful of them.

“So what if we have a little less to eat, we can’t deny a baby the right to live”

When asked about imparting sex education to their children, yet again the mothers were comfortable to speak to their daughters about menstruation but nothing more.

“They will find out eventually, on their own”

We then spoke to the parents of a 22 year old girl. Only the mother spoke to the daughter about her menstrual issues.They were “modern” in their approach though, where they encouraged their daughter to study as long as she wished before getting married. They were of the opinion that she doesn’t need to know about sex until right before her wedding and even after that her mother will give her the information if a married female friend doesn’t step forward.

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about sex, research, sex, Sex education, system design

Research, Round III

10th October 2015 : Kishori Shakti Yojana Centre

The Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) scheme is a redesign of the already existing Adolescent Girls Scheme being implemented in Ahmedabad as a component under the centrally sponsored Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme.

We visited a KSY Centre on Saturday along with a few NGO workers from Manav Sadhna. Each centre is managed by a main teacher along with an assistant teacher, with 20 to 25 girls between the age of 11 and 18 as participants. They use the existing ICDS infrastructure. Their activities aim to improve the nutritional health and development status of adolescent girls. The proliferation of awareness regarding health, hygiene, nutrition and family care is done verbally with the help of illustrative books. Some sessions are accompanied by music and prayers. Lessons are revised by holding quizzes and playing games such as card games and snakes & ladders, adding an element of fun to their learning.

Out of all the different aids and props they use to explain concepts, the most fascinating one was an apron, on which female reproductive organs were drawn, which one teacher would wear while the other explained.

The centre also had a small temple, and the girls were influenced by its presence, and in fact they wanted photographs with the idol. Only the elder girls who were married had a cell phone. The younger ones had no access to the internet, yet they were well aware of the concept of selfies and even requested for one with us! Also, it was surprising that these girls had similar television watching habits (in terms of channels and shows) as the school girls belonging to middle class households whom we had spoken to earlier.

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Insights

  1. For economically backward households, sexuality is even more of a “dirty” topic.
  2. The first reaction when a diagram of the vagina was shown was to look away in disgust. Even after marriage a few were hesitant to accept that they menstruate.
  3. Sexual revolution has yet not reached the far and narrow corners of Indian society.
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about sex, research, sex, Sex education

Research, Round II

9th October 2015 : Diwan Ballubhai Senior Secondary School

Our second destination was a high school close to our college. This was our first experience of speaking to young adults; we were very shy to ask them any questions initially, due to our own stigmas. However, once we became comfortable with our approach, we realised that the students were interested in talking about the topic and were themselves coming up to us and participating.

We were lucky to catch the students outside school at such a time since their exams had just gotten over. We spoke to a bunch of students from class X and XII, coming from simple, lower middle class Gujarati families. While speaking to the boys, we found out that they speak about sex extensively, but only among themselves. They don’t speak to girls about it. On being asked if they watch porn, most of them said yes and one of them mentioned that since they will need to be participants in the act of intercourse later in life, they might as well watch porn and learn from it. This response showed us how young adults feel about unfiltered information that they receive on the internet. They also told us that they sometimes ask sex-related questions to their female classmates, and were extremely shy and mischievous about it.

On speaking to the girls, we found out that they knew about menstruation but were very shy to talk about anything related to sex and sexuality. We identified a huge difference in the respective outlooks of the boys and the girls. Most of them owned smartphones and were active on Facebook and watched Hindi TV serials.

Insights

  1. Girls and boys despite receiving the same education in school had separate views on sexuality.
  2. Boys were more at ease while the girls shied away from it, since any inquisitiveness on a woman’s part is met with scorn and contempt.
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