Last month, a 15-year-old student allegedly died by suicide in Greater Faridabad, NCR region. The child’s mother in her complaint letter alleged that her son was being repeatedly bullied in schools over his sexuality.
Unfortunately, this is not the first case where a child has been abused or bullied at schools over their sexuality. But, this recent case yet again has started the dialogue of the importance and lack of sex education in Indian schools.
What is sex education?
Sex education can be defined as programs offering information on sexuality and contraception. This also encompasses gender identity, consent, and awareness about sexual abuse. The aim of including sex education is to develop awareness around sexual health.
While the class 9 Biology chapter on reproduction explains the anatomy of the body, types of reproduction, and puts much emphasis on HIV/AIDS infection. But, with the unraveling of terms gender fluidity, and gender role in our society education about sexuality and gender has also become important.
The missing education
So here at ‘Classes with News18’, we will learn about gender identity. We will try to make you understand what sex is, how it is different from gender, and are there more genders other than male and female?
Sex at birth: In a little bit of terminology, sex refers to a set of biological characteristics present in humans as well as in animals. It is primarily associated with someone’s physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.
If you have not heard of these terms, then don’t be afraid. Let’s make this simpler, sex at birth is assigned based on external genitalia (reproductive organs). Primarily, Sex is categorized as female or male, depending on the person’s biological characteristics. But there can be variations in humans, based on variations in their biological characteristics.
For example, a child born with a penis is said to be male, whereas a child born with a vulva is said to be female. However, if a child is born with reproductive anatomy that does not fit the description of “female” or “male" is referred to as an intersex child, explains Caring for Kids in its edition of Gender Identities.
So now comes a big question, is the sex of a person and gender of a person same? The answer is no. People often use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, but this is incorrect.
The term gender: Gender of a person is identified on the bases of “how a person feels and who they know themself to be" when it comes to their gender, says the above-attributed paper.
It is important to know that gender identity exists on a spectrum. A person’s gender identity can be masculine, feminine, or other. Gender isn’t about someone’s anatomy, it is about who they know themself to be. There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender-neutral, and non-binary.
Transgender: Many of you have might have come across the term transgender, so understand it in this way, it is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth.
So some people feel that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t match their identity and they feel different from inside. For example, a child born with female genitalia may identify as a boy, whereas, a child may also say that they are not a boy or a girl, reads TeenTalk, an educational platform on gender identities.
Let’s test our understanding of what we have learned so far:
Importance of gender expression
Over the centuries, we as humans have assigned stereotypical gender identities to people, based on their appearances or the clothes, hairstyles, toys, footwear, makeup, and so on. So gender expression of a person can be different from the sex at birth they are assigned. For example, a person who identifies as a man may wear nail polish or a woman may not like wearing dresses.
To bridge a similar gap in clothing, recently, the Kerala government school in Baluserry adopted a ‘gender neutral’ uniform for students —pants and a shirt, reported News18 earlier. Meanwhile, last year, the Madras High Court suggested measures to sensitise people on the LGBTQIA+ community so that they are brought into mainstream society. This included suggesting changes in the school curriculum to educate students on the same, reported India Today.
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