It’s 2016—sex is everywhere here in the West, and yet discussing the topic is still taboo in South Asian households. Originating from sociocultural contexts that emphasize religious teachings and traditional gender roles, we have been taught to associate sex and relationships outside of marriage with shame and sin. For example, sexual education is often ignored and frequently banned in Indian schools because the country’s leaders deem it “corrupts the youth and offends Indian values.”Also Read - Omicron Virus Cases in India: Parents Decline Sending Children to School | 14 Per Cent Immediate Drop
So, if not from us parents, where are our children seeking sex-ed? Unfortunately from friends, movies, books, and the Internet—prime sources of misinformation, tainted by political leanings and unrealistic, hyper-sexualized expectations. If we truly want our children to be safe from abuse, to develop healthy relationships, and to be accurately aware of their bodies, we have to develop open communications with them. If we want our children to have the knowledge and familial openness that we wish we could have had growing up, then the conversation needs to start at home. Also Read - Cough And Cold Remedies For Winters: 5 Dos And Don'ts to Protect Your Kids Before Severe Cold Kicks in
Of course, it’s tricky to know when and how to begin. Do we tiptoe around it with the ‘birds and the bees’ anecdote? How do we keep the conversation relevant to our South Asian roots (and house rules)? Here are eight books to help you get the ‘sex talk’ started with your pre-teens and teens. Do remember to encourage their questions and try to answer honestly, without hesitation. Home should be their safest haven. Also Read - Pakistan Cop Stands on Street & Tries to Sell His Children For Rs 50000, Know Why | Watch
1. “My Little Body Book: Keeping Ourselves Safe” by Shruti Singhal
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This book reads like a happy story, meant for children 5 years of age and up. With colorful and innocent illustrations, “My Little Body Book” aims to convey main messages of safety and cleanliness. Avni, a young girl, and Vivaan, a young boy, learn about their bodies, daily habits for hygiene, as well as what are good and bad touches from their loving families.
2-3. “Just for Boys” and “Just for Girls: A Book About Growing Up” by Parragon Books India
Let’s get past the gender-stifling cover choices of pink for girls and blue for boys—at least far enough to read how these two books address puberty. Written for teens, these chapter books cover the different physical and emotional changes that occur with age. They further present guided fact boxes, easy diagrams, tips to keep in mind, and question-answer sections.
4. “Body Talk: Real Girls Ask Real Questions about Love, Life, and Everything in Between” by Anjali Wason
The title says it all. While this book is geared towards teenage-aged girls around the age of 14, the 400 questions inside are relevant to women of all ages. “How do I have sex?” or “How do I determine my bra size?” are good examples. This book gives the clear and positive answers necessary to empower South Asian girls. Menstruation, safe sex, and making the right decision are also chapters to explore.
5. “21 Things Every Teen Should Know” by Divya Jalan
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By a teenage girl, for teenage girls, this chapter-sized book is certainly relatable. The author, who was 14 years of age at the time she wrote it, discusses how she navigated her personal experiences and changes through puberty – how to make friends, build relationships, deal with bullies, and find happiness. This book focuses on instilling confidence at a vulnerable and confusing phase in girls’ lives.
6. “The Blue Book: What You Want to Know About Yourself” by TARSHI
The creators of this book for boys, Talking about Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI), is a not-for-profit organization based in New Delhi, India. Founded in 1996, the organization’s mission is to expand the sexual and reproductive choices in people’s lives so that they may enjoy dignity, and freedom from fear, infections, and associated reproductive health problems.
TARSHI approaches its work from an affirmative and rights-based perspective, instead of the typical framework that restricts sexuality upon the basis of disease prevention, violence against women, and sexual minorities. This book is a good example—for teenage boys aged 15 and up, it tackles complex situations like hormonal changes, sexual experimentation, peer pressure, and sexual consent. It also attempts to demystify the female body for boys by discussing pregnancy, menstruation, and various forms of birth control.
7. “Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls” by Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul
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Menstrupedia is a social start-up envisioned by two youngsters—Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul—who have subsequently authored an entertainingly illustrated comic book. The comic intends to help girls aged 9 and above understand the process of menstruation, products for use, bodily changes, nutrition, and attempts to dispel associated menstrual taboos. Sponsored by Whisper, a leading sanitary pad brand in India, the comic is available in English, Hindi, and other regional Indian languages.
Menstrupedia has achieved widespread approval and has even been adopted by Indian NGOs and rural school districts for use in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Ladakh, and Mumbai, though is debated to be cost-prohibitive in such contexts. With a practicing gynecologist on the team, Menstrupedia is also medically accurate.
8. “The Yellow Book: A Parent’s Guide to Sexuality Education” by TARSHI
Lastly, this one is for you, parents. Also published by TARSHI, this guidebook has tips for perplexed parents on how to approach the subjects of sex, puberty, and relationships with their kids. The book adjusts tips on what to say about sex and how to answer kids’ myriad of curious questions according to their age ranges. “The Yellow Book” is great to share with teachers and other adults who may be part of your child’s daily life, education, and/or healthcare provision as well.