With the rapid wave of modernisation, sexually active teenagers are becoming a matter of serious concern. And to get the upper hand in this situation, many countries have introduced certain school-based programs in past decades hoping to enable them to make informed decisions and help them shape a healthy lifestyle.
According to the data of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), the instances of rape is increasing drastically with every passing year in our country. The number of rape cases, reported or unreported, can be traced down, but what about the wormhole of statistics regarding all those unknown veiled sexual relationships that adolescents are entering into? It is nearly impossible to guess the number, but then again counting is not the solution anymore. It's time we deal with the situation by talking and raising awareness.
In our society, the word 'sex' is still considered as a social taboo while in practice, the culture is becoming more and more popular among the adolescents and youngsters, consciously or under peer pressure of moving with the trend. Whether consensual sex or not, in the eyes of the law there are certain restrictions in regard to this matter.
We all know that sexual intercourse against one's will or consent using physical force, coercion or abuse of authority constitutes 'rape'. However according to Section 375 of the Penal Code of Bangladesh, one can still be liable to rape even if the intercourse was consensual where among other instances, the age of the girl is below fourteen years (or below thirteen years in case of a married girl). In all cases, the highest punishment of rape is imprisonment extending up to ten years, simple or rigorous, or imprisonment for life along with additional fines.
Therefore, even though the adolescents are having consensual sexual intercourse out of curiosity or teen love, the boy may be held liable for rape if the girl is legally minor. I bet this piece of information is unknown to many, adolescent or not, because by the word 'rape' we only understand force and this is not something we are taught either at school or at home.
Natural attraction towards opposite gender or even questions regarding our own biological growth are considered 'adult talk' in our society and instantly hushed up; hence, the concept of 'sex education' comes into play.
The idea may be novel in Bangladesh, but not to the world. According to researchers, scholars and activists in this field, after parents the schools are the first place where the children or adolescents are most exposed to learning simply because school is the only institution in regular contact with a sizable proportion of the teenage population.
Scientifically, all the adolescents of same aged groups do not attain the same level of maturity; hence the need to be aware of sex-education. And for that, the best place would be the school. A course could be included in the contemporary education system to educate the adolescents about consent, safe sex, and the consequences arising out of it. Social norms and religious views may also be discussed along with the existing legal provisions regarding this matter.
Most importantly, the parents need to be taught that a comprehensive sex education is not the demonstration of the act of sexual intercourse; rather, it is a course discussing human sexuality that includes emotional relations and responsibilities, such as, reproduction, age of consent, health, safe sex, birth control, sexual abstinence etc.
When awareness rises among families regarding this, we will be able to forget about social taboo and shame. Probably only then, the rising amount of cases of rape, attempts to rape or even consensual sex among minors as well as the legal and social consequences of these can be reduced.
This will also help to build a foundation of trust and friendship while providing young people with advices regarding right and wrong activities. In most of the cases, children tend to avoid talking about sexual issues but this should not be the case if we want to protect our children.
Schools have been always the first place of learning, let them also be institutions which foster decision-making and problem-solving skills through adequate instructions, in the belief that henceforward our adolescents will be better equipped to act responsibly towards themselves and the society.
Tanzina Akter Rita is an apprentice lawyer of Judge Court, Dhaka.