Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday remarked in the state assembly that “an educated woman is able to ensure sex doesn’t necessarily end in pregnancy, which helps keep the population in check”. How would she do this? By asking her male partner to pull out before ejaculation.
The statement cause furore because, critics said, it crossed boundaries of ‘decency’ ‘obscenity’ and ‘respectability’.
But if we unpack the what Nitish said and all the conversation around his statement, we see that there are many issues at the heart of it.
First is the matter of sex-education itself.
Why does sex-education still cause us so much anxiety and shutting down using respect for women as a cover? By creating a ‘scandal’ commotion each time, the conversation remains at a very basic level if any and the idea of reproductive health is kept separated from sexual and social autonomy—when in fact these two are intimately linked.
Alt text: Screenshot of an excerpt from an article on The Hindu website. The text in the screenshot reads: While the 'health and wellness curriculum' has been released at a national-level, Sharda AL, Director of non-profit Population First says that teachers in schools are not trained to talk about sex in an educative way that is non-stigmatised, making it hard for them to pass on the message to students."If you have a great theoretical model but a bad facilitator then it won't work. Teachers may pass on discomfort to children while talking about sex, gender, reproduction and menstruation. They need to be able to say the terms penis and vagina without getting squeamish about it," Ms. Sharda said." Also at times the teachers feel that talking about sex is bad, or that women should not know about condoms," she adds.
An article in The Hindu discusses what might be an appropriate way to disseminate sex education. An excerpt:
“Early roots of family planning are laid in schools as adolescents start discussing reproductive and sexual health in what was deemed as ‘sex education’ in the National Education Policy’s (NEP) draft version released in 2019. The draft NEP said that sex education will also be included in secondary school for future judgement surrounding consent, harassment, respect for women, safety, family planning and sexually transmitted diseases prevention. But, after the draft went public, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh backed Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas opposed inclusion of ‘sex education’ in the NEP. The final version of NEP released in 2020 deleted the paragraph on ‘sex education,’ that was earlier included in the 2019 draft, The Hindu verified.”
Should sex education be provided in schools, would English be the only medium it is taught in? One of our great issues about sex and all the chi-chi that happens around is also a question of language.
With scientific, clinical terms often taken from English, rendering them unrelatable and distant from life, spoken vernacular is seen as crude. “Lust” is okay for OTT, “tharak” means you must be a villain from the 80s Bollywood “B-Grade” film.
The politics of language in this case has been succinctly analysed in Shoaib Daniya’s twitter thread and Dr Medusa’s video.
Slide 1- A screenshot of a tweet by Shoaib Daniyal that reads: shoaib daniyal @ShoaibDaniyal Apart from the political play - it helped to overshadow caste census - it's probably true that Nitish wouldn't have generated this censure if he'd spoken in English. Low prestige of Hindi (and most other Indian languages) means there is no way to speak of sex in a neutral way. 4:35 pm 08 Nov 238,102 Views
Slide 2- A screenshot of a tweet by Shoaib Daniyal that reads: shoaib daniyal @ShoaibDaniyal Even when Indian languages do speak of sex they make sure to use loans. Hindi and Urdu for eg never use their native vocabulary for sexual organs in formal speech. They borrow words from Sanskrit and Arabic-Persian respectively.4:37 pm 08 Nov 23 1,208 Views
Slide 3- A screenshot of a tweet by Shoaib Daniyal that reads: shoaib daniyal @ShoaibDaniyalUrdu word for penis for eg is so high falutin it's almost a parody (Julü çać, uzū-i-tanāsul). Of course native Urdu words like lauṛā are so low prestige they are swear words. In some cases they would not even be seen as "Urdu" (since only the poetic register is Urdu!) 4:47 pm 08 Nov 23 1,274 Views
Slide 4- A screenshot of a quote retweet by Shoaib Daniyal that reads: Someone actually "translated" Nitish's words into tatsamised Hindi to "make it" non-vulgar (compared to his demotic register) 6:43 pm 08 Nov 23 3,006 Views The tweet RTed by him, features a video by Dr Medusa, a still of which can be seen in the image. The visible part of her tweet reads: Dr.Medusa @ms_medusssa @Nitishkumar doesn't deserve to be condemned, in our country, he needs to be congratulated, despite the embarrassed tone of his speech or the laughter of his colleagues....
AOI’s decolonial approach to sex education also means allowing for the expression in varied languages to be accepted without any shame.
Alt text: The card features an image of Mithun Chakraborty doing a hip thrust dance step. On both sides of this image, there are illustrations of clapping hands. Text on the card reads: BENGALI THARKI WORDSLAGANO লাগানো THAPANO থাপানো (ONOMATOPOEIC IN CAPTURING THE CLAPPING SOUND!)MEANING: TO FUCK
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Conflating conversations of sex with shame and indecency ensures that the extent of the conversation stays limited. The pull put method guarantees safety neither from pregnancy nor from STDs.
And so, if we question our lawmakers for even touching upon sex in the Assembly, we don’t reach a place of determining contraceptive choice based on needs and desires.
And while we wait for them to catch up, here’s some AOI work to clear the smog around sex ed:
Slide 1- A vintage looking photo of a woman wearing a saree. There is also an illustration of a pichkari from which fluid is being expelled. Text on the card reads: Doc! Doc! Is pregnancy possible if he pulled out before ejaculating?
Slide 2- A vintage looking photo of a woman wearing a saree, holding a pichkari in one hand. The word "oops" is written nearby, in a speech bubble that indicates alarm. There is also a picture of Kamal Hassan, which is a still of him dressed as an old woman, from the movie Chachi 420. Text on the card reads: Yes, it is possible. Pregnancy is possible even if he pulls out of the vagina "in time", that is, before ejaculating. Can we really rely so much on gent's timing of pulling out? Waise bhi, precum may also carry leaked sperm.Psst: Many don't know, the first pichkaari of semen itself is most concentrated with sperm!
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Alt text: Many illustrations of flower garlands arranged in heart shapes. The central heart shape is being held by two hands and has a question mark within. The other heart shapes have pictures of various contraception measurea, such as a condom, contraceptive pills, an IUD.Text on the card reads: Did you know....there are different contraception methods for different contraception needs,so you can choose one depending on your requirements?
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