‘Homosexuality’ along with other elements pertaining to boys and girls are often considered a taboo and stereotyped by our Indian society. These lead to many of them having to face social and legal problems. However, to improve the situation, the Health Ministry has taken a major step to educate the masses, especially the adolescents.
The Health Ministry has come up with ‘Saathiya’, an adolescent peer-education plan developed with the help of United Nations Population Fund to reach out to 26 crore adolescents in our country.
This kit, that deals with the matters of homosexuality, contraception, gender-based violation, respecting others and their consent, will be provided to 1.65 lakh educators, in order to teach the students.
The resource material circulates the following message:
“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 is during adolescence that boys and girls go through emotional and physical changes and despite the boom in the internet and social media, they find it difficult to comprehend this teenage phase. Thus, this endeavor intends to answer these questions and doubts in the minds of the youth, especially those from the rural areas.
There are also some stereotypes associated with some boys termed as ‘sissy’ and girls labelled as ‘tomboys’ that can stunt the psychological growth, and in turn scar them for life.
“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’.”
‘Saathiya’ also deals with addictions related to alcohol, smoking and its deleterious effects. Reproductive health section includes information on HIV, STDs, methods of contraception for both boys and girls, abortion.
This is a major and progressive step taken by the Government of India and the Indian Health Ministry to tackle issues that is often shied away from. Many a times, gender based violence has had its roots traced back to a disturbed adolescent stage. With this broad-minded move, we hope the initiative will help to eradicate the old stigmas of the Indian society that still hovers in the modern times.