Published: 04th August 2021
Two young women are petitioning for comprehensive sex education for UG students in Telangana. This is their story
The SEYA collective is trying to normalise healthy conversations about sex and sexuality by bringing them into the classrooms for young adults
Let's be frank. An alarming number of young students today are still uncomfortable with the use of words such as sex, masturbation, and even feminism. Meghana Chaganti, a 27-year-old activist, thinks along the same lines. Co-founder of the Sex Education for Young Adults (SEYA) Collective along with Aaisha Uttarwar, she has petitioned Osmania University to include Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) in the curriculum for unergraduate students in Telangana. Aaisha and Meghana are fellows of the Awaz-e-Telangana programme that works to provide resources and opportunities to young activists to work for their cause. The petition is on change.org, and has received almost 450 signatures.
Meghana says that SEYA is working to abolish the restrictive mindset around sex education. "We have stressed the word comprehensive because there is more to sex education than just teaching people safe sex methods. Our definition of CSE incorporates lessons on gender identity, sexuality, youth agency and respectful relationships, and the importance of healthy boundaries," says Meghana, adding that she has drawn from her own experience of abusive relationships to gauge what thorough education about healthy relationships should cover. "I have even had scarring conversations with gynaecologists, and it just made me value the need for focused, appropriate and methodical sex education in our society," Meghana shares.
Speaking with sex educators in the country, Meghana believes that targetting undergraduate students is a good time to initiate people into discussions on this subject. "We live in a country where a lot of schools simply skip the reproduction chapter in high school. Students who have just started college are bound to have experiences with sexuality, sex, relationships and gender identity. While they can always turn to Google for answers, including these subjects in their education will help normalise them, and remove the stigma and secrecy they are bound to," Meghana insists.
Meghana Chaganti (left) and Aaisha Uttarwar (right)
Given that backdrop, it doesn't seem like it is going to be easy to get the administration on board. Meghana rues, "The UG curriculum in the state has a special course called Gender Sensitisation which is compulsory for all students. However, the faculty we have spoken with tell us that getting it cleared took seven years of constantly tabling it and asking for it." That course doesn't address themes such as sexuality and gender fluidity and is centered around women's issues.
Implementing the course will be a challenge, and SEYA is exploring whether they can imbibe it into the Gender Sensitisation programme. They are also looking at options such as including it in the curriculum as a subject or a workshop, or one course per semester. Apart from the red tape, another challenge this group probably faces is garnering support from the teachers who are going to bring it to the students, and ensure that they are able to put forth the course in the most appropriate manner to these young minds. "We want to have a panel discussion between faculty from various colleges, and sex educators so we can reach an understanding on how this course is to be taught," says Meghana.