Interview by Tahir Rufayee
My questions for you are as follows:
What was your thought process in conceptualizing ‘Thatmate’?
Sex education is still very much a taboo in India. Parents get scandalized when it’s brought up. Teachers are uncomfortable discussing it in schools. And the internet is not always a reliable source. This affects the kids consciously or subconsciously and typically has repercussions in the form of depression due to sudden physical and mental change which they are not properly aware of. Also, unprotected sex or incidents of sexual abuse don’t happen because of sex education, rather due to the lack of it.
My niece got her periods when she was 11 years old. She asked her mother several types of questions like why periods happen? Why they only happen to women? Can she get rid of them? Why it comes every month? My sister in law and my cousin both were uncomfortable answering her questions. They were trying to dodge her questions. This made me think, even today in 2016, the situation is still the same. The words like condom, sanitary pads are considered ‘taboos’ in my family. I thought my cousin and my sister in law, who are almost a decade older than I am, wouldn’t keep their kids uninformed as my parents did. However, when my niece asked these question and everyone in the family didn’t care to answer, I realized something had to be done.
Do you feel the present generation of adolescents is better versed with sex and sexuality and everything connected with it compared to the previous generations? What is their source of information/education?
The problem is – in this internet era, the nature of information that’s being put out there is perverse and obstreperous. Blocking access to it is just not possible for government, parents, teachers or schools. All we can do is provide the correct information from correct sources.
In your opinion, what kind of a role should parents and teachers play in helping adolescents feel comfortable to talk about sex and sexuality?
Schools and colleges should take this responsibility. Because something like “Papa, what does fuck-you mean?” tends to fluster parents completely. It’s a skill that can be easily acquired by teachers, not by parents.
Let’s accept it. This matter is still very much a taboo. Parents get scandalized when it’s brought up. Their first impression is that this person is going to give out graphical information about “things” (Little do they know that their children are busy watching porn-clips on their smartphones). And then all this can translate to anywhere between obscene language, passing vulgar comments.. all the way to cases of sexual violence. This is where we get it wrong. These incidences don’t happen because of sexuality education but due to lack of it. Every time we have done a workshop in this regard with teachers, they express regret that they did not have access to this information when they were students themselves.
Parents don’t really have a choice about whether their children get sex information – they can only choose whether or not to participate in the sex education at home. Fact is that teaching children about sex need not be different from teaching them about lots of other things
What is the level of sex education in India?
Teenagers learn most of what they know about sex from their friends rather than parents. Sex education in school curriculum is still not offered. Children are exposed to a great deal of information about sex at an early age through television, movies, books, internet and lots of other sources. It leads to the risk of interpreting what they see as accurate depictions of what sex is all about, which may have unfortunate consequences this, is education by default…
Children of all age groups are curious to know about sex, periods and condoms. The advertisements and the physiological changes that happen in their bodies probe them to know more about it. It’s quite obvious of kids to ask questions after seeing a pregnant woman or a newborn. If parents refuse to talk about this or share half-baked stories with them, it will only misguide the child.
As a concerned citizen who, along with her team, is contributing actively to open the channels of communication in sex education what, according to you, are the gaps or loopholes in our society?
Enfold a Bangalore based NGO and Tarshi are doing it. People should understand that sex education is extremely important and it should be a part of curriculum. People think there might be a “temptation” to use the “knowledge” once acquired (like the-Kunti-effect in Mahabharata). Actually speaking — curiosity and temptation is quite natural for the adolescent age. Misinformation is worst. It’s better to gain formal “knowledge” than “learning” something profane through blue films. This knowledge comes ensconced with a sense of responsibility and that’s exactly the intention of sexuality education. Puberty is not just about pimples, moustache/beard or menstruation. It involves evolution of moral values and taking responsibility of your decisions. Won’t a streamlined learning process make it easier?
Rape is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual violence. There’re so many more layers to this – sexual harrassment at workplace, gender bias, child abuse, marital rape etc. etc. Are we going to wake up only temporarily, after brouhaha about the next high-profile rape story in the media?
Madhavi Jadhav is a social entrepreneur and Founder of ThatMate, an online platform working towards spreading awareness about sexuality related topics. She wants ThatMate to be a one stop solution for all sexuality related issues. This will be done by letting people discover a repository of videos, comics and articles on all sexuality related topics. It will also provide online support for all queries related to sexuality by providing a platform for people to discuss their knowledge and concerns on sexuality related topics. ThatMate is a reliable and trustworthy platform to share and propagate knowledge about sex education and sexuality related topics. It is a culturally sensitive approach to break the taboo associated with sexuality education in India.
A petroleum engineer by education and profession, an avid reader, a moody writer and a traveler by choice. Featured in USA Today’s 30 under 30 in February 2014. A Tedx speaker https://www.youtube.com/watch?