In another blow to the religious right the Supreme Court of India ruled that live-in relationship and pre-marital sex cannot be construed as an offence. The Supreme Court made these observations in a case involving Indian actress Khusboo who few years ago made statements endorsing pre-marital sex and the use of contraceptives in a magazine interview.
It is interesting that we in India are still debating these issues in the 21st century. Most of the world has moved on. But I am glad that the Supreme Court took up this case and clarified where the courts stand on this sensitive issue. This now puts pressure on the Indian Government to formulate laws that will govern such relationships and also clarify how custody and other issues will be handled when it comes to children resulting from such relationships.
The Indian economy is not the only thing that is growing. There is a sexual revolution going on beneath the surface in India (I have read many reports that indicate that this is true for China as well). The younger generation is dating more and early, the number of people who are living together is increasing and the number of individuals who break-up and move on to other relationships is also increasing. Bollywood and Indian sports (particularly Cricket) are full of celebrities who lead a more liberal lifestyle than the celebrities of the past. Bollywood is a leading indicator and not typical example of where Indian society is today but is a good indicator as to where it is headed.
But the frustrating part is that hard data about what is going on is not available. Is pre-marital sex and live-in relationship a growing trend in the cities alone? Is it limited to a certain strata of society or to a certain geographical area? Hard data is important because educational institutions, social groups and the government can be more specific in providing support.
Why do they need support? Except in a few states like Kerala sex education is completely absent from the Indian educational system. Unfortunately most parents do not talk to their kids about matters relating to sex either. It is up to the kids to figure things out and educate themselves which is not the proper way to do it (you do not want your 14 year old kid to learn about sex, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex practices from his/her 14 year old friend).
The sexual revolution in America took place in the fifties and the sixties after American soldiers returned from World War II. Since then the American government and other agencies have tried many different approaches and programs to make sure that young adults make well informed decisions. Some programs are very successful while others are failures.
Knowing the Indian society I am afraid that some of the steps that we will take would be similar to the failed American programs. These programs focus on “abstinence only approach” as the best and safest method. According to a study by “Family Planning Perspectives” only about 34% of American schools still conduct abstinence only programs (many of these school districts are in conservative areas of the country). 66% of the schools provide students information about contraceptives and other safe sex practices. Studies also show that students who are in the “abstinence only” programs are sexually active which defeats the purpose.
The debate about religion and cultural values should not overshadow the fact that this is a debate about health care and education as well. India already has a major HIV/AIDs problem in its hands. Let us educate and let us move forward.
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Category: Culture & Religion