July 03, Quartz india Nearly six years ago, I wrote a story about how the i-pill, a brand of morning-after pill, was being misused in India. I posted an internet notice asking people who had used the i-pill to contact me. I could not have predicted the flood of responses. Years later, I still get panicky mails from desperate strangers asking for contraceptive advice. Many are from young teen girls, who want me to tell them if they are pregnant. I write back to every one asking that they see a doctor.
I get no response, and I very much fear that none of them do. This is precisely why India needs sex education. Our Indian values are not stopping teens from having sex. They are having sex, and highly dangerous sex. When I talked to gynecologists across India, I found that they were flooded with cases of contraceptives gone wrong, or teens having sex without any form of contraception at all. One told me about girls having repeated abortions because they knew nothing about contraception.
Another talked about girls popping i-pills like candy, because they confuse it with regular pills, suffering awful side effects. A third told me how boys refused to use condoms, or take any responsibility for contraception. There are pages about the i-pill filled with desperate pleas for help, many from 16 and 17 year olds. I have been thinking about this even harder lately, because I now have a year-old daughter, on the cusp of entering this world of ignorance and shame.
But, judging by what my daughter tells me, that is a dull explanation of body parts and menstruation, with no explanation of what sex actually involves.
The sex ed was so useless that after a few days, my worried daughter came to me with a question: Teach it to them from a young age. Teach them that no means no, and that they need to take equal responsibility for contraception.
Meanwhile, girls are being coerced into unprotected and dangerous sex: But do you know of any teen who listens to her parents when making life choices?
They listen to their peers and, sometimes, teachers. Without proper resources, we are raising a generation of people who go to strangers on the internet for intimate advice.
Earlier this year, I reported from a government school in Bangalore, where Mythri, an educational video about menstrual hygiene, was shown to a group of year-old girls. Sini Joseph, the brain behind the video, took the opportunity to talk to the girls about sex and abuse, telling them about the dangers of premarital sex, but in a non-preachy manner.
We need to give them weapons to protect themselves. The parents welcome this. Indian values are a red herring. We are never going to agree on what exactly they are. Follow the author on Twitter kavitharao. We welcome your comments at ideas qz.