A gynaecologist's experience about sex education to the youth
M3 India Newsdesk Sep 06, 2018
While there are no government regulations yet, many doctors have done extensive work imparting sex education to youth and adolescents. In this article, we talk to Dr. Chandrakant Sankalecha, a renowned gynaecologist from Maharashtra who has counselled the youth for more than a decade now.
Sex education has been a taboo topic in India and is still considered to be a matter not to be discussed among family members or by parents with their children. Government regulations do not mandate sex education and any attempts to pass legislation for it have been met with resistance. However, many doctors and medical practitioners have done extensive work on educating youth and adolescents about sex education and the various elements of human sexuality. Their sole aim has been to disseminate scientific information. Some like Dr. Mahinder Watsa have been tirelessly writing in newspapers, while many publish books and deliver talks and answer queries about sexuality.
In this article, we talk to Dr. Chandrakant Sankalecha, a renowned gynaecologist from Nashik, Maharashtra who has counselled nearly 3000 youth across more than a decade through a series of seminars in educational institutions across Nashik and elsewhere and also in underprivileged communities such as women workers and labourers.
Dr. Sankalecha has had some insightful experiences during his training sessions. He gives us some insights into what youth and women have asked him.
"Pornography and why it’s wrong is something I have to always explain"
Sexuality is often subject to speculative articles and ‘advice’ from many columnists, while scientific studies about sex and sexuality are hardly discussed by mainstream media. Dr Sankalecha says, “For youth, especially boys, they had many basic queries including what sex exactly is, how it actually happens and sometimes, why it is such a big secret. Other major queries that boys tend to ask me are about media misreports on topics such as masculinity, penis size, infatuation, attraction, the consequences of sex and if pre-marital sex is advisable.”
Dr. Sankalecha has noted a great change in the nature of queries, especially since smartphones have become ubiquitous. He notes that the information was always available, but smartphones and cheap internet access have allowed a lot of access to pornography, and sadly, most youth are rarely aware of scientific sources of information.
He says, “Pornography and why it’s wrong is something I have to always explain. Some of my audience consists of knowledgeable science students who still wonder why pornography is wrong. I have to explain that pornography is something extremely mechanical, commercial, and unrealistic, and nothing like human sexuality in real life. This image created by pornography can often lead to unrealistic expectations from partners and it leads to a lot of issues among couples later on.”
Another fact he emphasizes is that he addresses a joint audience of girls and boys, since he believes that this is inherently a topic which requires deep understanding and needs to be approached seriously. “When I address youth, I tell them that this is a completely normal phenomenon and is also a beautiful element of life. However, all that youth need to ensure is that it does not become an obsession for them. However, free discussion about such topics across sexes is critical for a more educated society.”
The shortcomings of education
“Most people I talk to are educated, in the conventional sense of the term. However, even they have basic queries about sexuality and even physiological processes such as menstruation, where there is absolutely no need to harbour any secrets. It is something half the world experiences, and we exist because of it.”
Even women and girls studying science sometimes come to him talking about scanty bleeding, heavy bleeding, they worry if their periods are even a day late, or if they go on beyond their ‘normal’ duration of 4 days. “This mainly occurs since we have inadequate information from our parents and teachers. Even qualified doctors find it troubling to answer certain queries. Even for me, I have to keep myself updated about what queries youth are asking, their attitude towards sex and what new misconceptions have cropped up due to media reports.”
With the usual queries of penis size, periods and sexuality, there are a few curveballs that Dr. Sankalecha faces during his lectures. “Two topics which are now entering the mainstream of sexuality and discussions on it are masturbation, homosexuality and sexual pleasure. Boys often ask me if masturbation is wrong, or about certain practices which can increase their ‘stamina’. They’re also very curious about female masturbation, about female sexual pleasure and how that works. These are good queries in a way, but I see them coming more often in queries now than earlier.”
“Similarly, homosexuality has been discussed in a half-baked and immature manner in most media, be it books or films. I have to answer those queries too. Many people are curious about things such as homosexuality and if it’s a disorder or a curse. This is still tricky territory and even I have to navigate carefully and provide information which I know is backed by evidence.”
What does he feel about the way youth get information, and he says that the internet is obviously a powerful tool and for facts, there are multiple credible sources which can provide all the basic information. However, it is also a minefield where false information abounds, and people can easily be misled by some ‘forums’ where information is disseminated. Parsing misinformation from information is critical, which is why it’s easier to openly discuss the topic and nip misconceptions in the bud.
Counselling the underprivileged
About his work among underprivileged communities, he says, “This is a demographic most seriously affected by this problem. These are communities where our hyper-sexualized media has reached, where the internet and access have dug deep into the public psyche, but awareness and the importance of scientific information has not. In such forums, I have to go to the very basics, and field queries which seem juvenile. But that is our condition, and we have to do it since not having a pragmatic and scientific approach towards this is immensely problematic.”
Dr. Sankalecha has nearly three to four thousand parchments of paper where students have written their queries for him. He is passionate about doing this since he believes that accurate information can instil responsibility, and this is especially necessary when the media is not selective about the messages it disseminates through its content.
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