The Indian government has released a new health resource for school students which discusses sexual consent and homosexuality.
Health Secretary C K Mishra created the Saathiya Resource Kit which includes a mobile app and Peer Educators who will help adolescents navigate the world of health, sex, drugs and alcohol.
Even though homosexuality is not decriminalised in India the resource tells students it is ok to be attracted to be people of the same sex. It says it is normal to have these feelings.
The resource published in Hindi also teaches students all relationships should be based on mutual consent and respect.
‘Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love,’ the resource says.
‘They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is normal to have special feelings for someone.
‘It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no.’
Minister Mishra said the most important component and driving force of the program were its Peer Educators and this resource kit was launched to help them to communicate with teenagers.
‘Our country is home to 253 million adolescents which is largest in the world in terms of absolute numbers,’ Minister Mishra said.
‘Adolescents are the critical mass of asset which in future would be the biggest dividends to the country’s economy; thereby their health and wellness are of utmost priority.’
‘The kit is being launched to enable the 1.6 lakhs (1.6 million) Peer Educators towards taking their job forward and answering all the queries in the minds of an adolescent in-spite of the plethora of media (Magazines, TV, internet etc.) available,’ he said.
The Peer Educators will be trained to be recognized as a ‘saathiya’ – a good friend for the students.
Smartphone app to help shy kids
The mobile app ‘Saathiya Salah’ can be used by students who might not have access to the Peer Educators and is also linked to a toll-free Saathiya Helpline (1800-233-1250) which will act as an e-counselor.
The app and helpline was designed to help the shy adolescents or those unable to interact with the peer educators due to family reasons to access the information.
Boys do cry
Developed in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund also works to dispel gender stereotypes.
It teaches students that it is ok for boys to cry and calling somebody a ‘sissy’ or a ‘tomboy’ was not acceptable.
‘A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy,’ it says.
‘Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean that he is not male.
‘The same applies for girls who talk too much or like to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such people as ‘sissy’ or ‘tomboy’.’