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Need for Sexual and Reproductive health awareness in Adolescents: Saathiya Resource Kit

In recent years lack of awareness among teenagers has resulted in unsafe sexual practices, violence, substance abuse and mental disorders including depression and anxiety. According to UNICEF India's latest data ,one in three adolescent girls have experienced physical, sexual and emotional violence and 13% have experienced sexual violence by their partner. Around 2.6 million girls have experienced forced sexual intercourse or another form of forced sexual act in the country. Also 77% of the girls were sexually abused by either husband or partner while 3% reported sexual violence by a stranger. One in six girls began child bearing in adolescence. The study also revealed that 45% girls and 48% boys justify wife beating which was also reflected in it.33% women are beaten by their husband or partner. A Lancet study released last year showed that suicides contributed to the highest number of deaths among teenagers between 15-19 years in India. WHO says 4.5% of the total population suffers from depressive disorders that stand at more than 50 million people. The Government of India is making an attempt at educating adolescents on the sex education. The new approach is to involve peer educators from within their own community so that they feel comfortable discussing their problems.

Government has released Saathiya or peer educator resource kit. The government aims to train about 1.65 lakh adolescents in the 15-19 age –group who will share correct information about sexual health with their peers. The scheme under Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram will also answer adolescent queries on sexual and reproductive health to substance abuse, injuries and violence, mental health, nutrition and non-communicable diseases concerning youth at this age. 243 million are adolescents in the age group of 15-19 years in India.

The role of states will be instrumental as health is a state subject and success of the program depends upon the cooperation of the states especially those states that have had reservations about introducing sex education in their school curriculum. Past attempts at making sex education part of school curriculum had faced criticisms including political parties, parents and even teachers who were too embarrassed to talk about sex with the students. Owing to the stigma attached, discussing issues related to mental health is still considered a taboo.

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