Young adults studying in various colleges in Pune have desired better and active involvement of parents and teachers while they acquire sex health education and consider these elders as the most trusted individuals to seek authentic information on this matter during growing up years, a recently published research has found.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from city-based ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute (ICMR-NARI), aims at understanding the sexual behaviour and needs of city-based college students aged between 18 and 24 years.
For Pune — being an education hub with a high influx of youngsters migrating here either for education or for jobs — such a formative study was a pilot test to understand and map their sexual behaviours, and more importantly, needs of these youngsters.
According to official statistics of the study, published in Indian Journal of Paediatrics, 35 per cent of India’s HIV positive cases were below the age of 25 years, of which, the age of individuals acquiring newer infections ranged between 15 and 24 years. This highlighted the high prevalence of risky sexual behaviour among the young population.
The study enquired with participants on their source of knowledge on sex health and the relevance of such awareness in their lives, especially in the growing up years. About 93 per cent of the 74 participants, of which 40 were boys and 34 were girls, said they used the internet regularly. Overall, 70 per cent of the respondents had previously attended some awareness programmes as part of sex health education either at school, college or elsewhere. About 89 per cent felt that sex health education was an essential learning during their adolescence.
Separate group interactions with boys and girls studying in three city-based colleges and streams were conducted on various domains — sexual behaviours, relationships, premarital sex, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), same sex behaviour, contraception, use of technology and mobile phones, impact of social media and safe sex practices. While the researchers found the participants open and aware on a majority of these topics, both genders faced similar levels of dearth in availing credible information on issues regarding sexual matters and expressed the need for personalised guidance.
Social taboos attached to discussing sex, too, was considered a key barrier for effective communication between parents or teachers with the young adults, the study found.
“Nowadays, young adults are more open to discussing and seeking guidance on matters pertaining to sex and sexuality. Even though internet offers information in aplenty, they want more active involvement of their parents and teachers in educating them,” said Radhika Brahme, senior scientist and lead researcher of the paper titled ‘A qualitative exploration to understand the sexual behaviour and needs of young adults: A study among college students of Pune, India’.
Even though many schools organise sessions on sex health education, respondents sought more information beyond the mere identification of reproductive parts of human body, more often than not, shared as power point presentation making them more “scientific” in nature.
Being in relationships is still not a welcome idea among Indian parents, but the respondents presented a list of the reasons for getting into one.
“Besides natural attraction towards the opposite sex, peer pressure and fear of feeling singled-out, exploring possibilities for recreation, emotional support, and exposure to porn were among the commonly stated reasons. We found that boys were more informed and open to discussions than female respondents,” added Brahme.
Researchers now plan to share their findings with the colleges.
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