Life in an all girls’ school is unlike anything people belonging to a different world could imagine. In fact, it’s quite a world in itself. A world with rules, norms and presumptions of its own. Which is why for most convent girls, college is nothing less than a dramatic change. It’s not like they feel any less grateful towards school. But the one area they realise they aren’t versed enough in is the development of mature attitudes towards the physical aspect of relationships that students begin to engage in or at least become aware of after a certain age.
I think it’s an important issue that is skirted by not having formal sex education classes in school. It leads to an evident lack of comfort with the opposite gender and often the inability to see them as normal people. As I know it, for the longest time, boys in all girls’ schools have been looked upon as fascinating species. As girls are in all boys’ institutions. And relationships between the two are nothing short of scandals, especially in small towns. They are discussed, analysed, giggled at and more than a few eyebrows are raised at them. In metropolitan cities, it’s often a sign of how cool and progressive you are, and an attempt to be part of the hep crowd.
While teachers at individual levels often do try to foster a sense of maturity and understanding, I’m afraid that during most of our school lives, we were never encouraged to discuss issues of sexuality openly. Sex education was never even on the distant horizon. Girls at seventeen and eighteen have had to either suppress their curiosities about everything from the method to homosexual relationships to the hormonal changes they would undergo themselves. Or resort to unreliable web information and discuss it in small, intimate groups accompanied with hysterical giggles with their equally naive girl friends. This is why we tend to remain an immature society that loves to jump to conclusions. It is because we were never told sitting in a decorous classroom that it’s okay to feel a certain way, it’s okay to be in a physical relationship with another person as long as you know what you’re doing and proceed with caution.
Sex education is one of the many topics that teenagers need to be counselled on and that get brushed under the table. Especially in convents, one clearly sees this pursuit towards and aspirations of moulding Virgin Marys. I’m not saying girls should be encouraged to be promiscuous or even ‘adventurous’ , but how can they not be made aware of basic issues, including contraception, reproductive rights and gay sex? How can they not be made to realise that the opposite gender includes normal people like them whom they will inevitably be drawn towards? Why must it be scandalous to see two individuals who view each other that way? Or why must one foster a sense of guilt for feeling the same way towards someone?
Our education system needs reform on several counts, but I think school administrations need to realise, first and foremost that their students not just need these things but are absolutely ready for them. We have to stop behaving like we follow the purdah system where our kids would be polluted if left unshielded from the world. Let them fly knowing where they’re going. Sex is normal. Talking about it should also be normal, with teachers and parents. The sooner children realise so, the more cautious they will be, the more deep and meaningful bonds they will form. And even if they don’t, just like the act of sex itself, it’s not the end of the world.
About the Author
Lata Jha is currently a student of journalism at Columbia University. She has written for numerous web platforms on a wide range of issues as both volunteer and intern. She aspires to pursue a career primarily in film journalism, though she is equally vocal about issues in other spheres of life that she may feel strongly for.