India's New Sex Ed Guide Could Represent A Sign Of Progress From The Government

It addresses same-sex relationships, contraceptives, and stereotypical gender roles.

As the White House faces backlash over its decision to reverse Obama-era guidelines protecting transgender students' rights, over on the other side of the world, the tide may be turning the other way. This week, India's Health Ministry issued a sex education guide addressing same-sex relationships, contraceptives, and gender roles in a manner that some are cautiously taking as a sign of progress from the government, as advocates continue to fight to legalize homosexuality in India. 

Released Monday, the resource material acknowledges attraction between people of the same sex, and teaches the importance of respect and consent. According to The Indian Express, part of the material translated from Hindi reads:

Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is normal to have special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says 'no' it means no. 

It also makes recommendations about reproductive health that tackle sexual activity in a way that observers might say are more mature and rational than how some developed countries have done so. The resource material gives information about STDs and "exhaustive information" on contraceptive options for both genders, The Express reported. The guide also addresses abortion and masturbation. 

In a country where stereotypical gender norms are firmly rooted in the culture, and where women have been vocal about the widespread sexual harassment they face, government-issued declarations like these hold significant weight and could shift the way Indians view gender and sexuality.  

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The resource kit was created in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund and will be used to train peer educators to teach adolescents about sex and gender. 

Importantly, the guide also takes traditional gender roles to task. The Indian Express quoted another excerpt:

A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy. Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean that he is not male. The same applies for girls who talk too much or like to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such people as 'sissy' or 'tomboy'.

LGBT advocates scored a huge victory when the Supreme Court decriminalized same-sex sexual activity. The Health Ministry's latest move, one year on, could signal yet another step towards the right direction. 

Cover image via Don Mammoser / Shutterstock.com

(H/T: Mashable)

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