Their concerns are borne out by the study, which showed disturbing trends of
ignorance - only 35.3% of single girls in cities knew that they could get
pregnant in their first sexual encounter. A mere 35.1% of unmarried boys
consistently used condoms with pre-marital partners.
"When it comes to sexual behaviour, we found that youngsters had very
superficial knowledge, which makes them indulge in risky sexual behaviour,"
said Usha Ram of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), an
autonomous institute under the Union ministry of health and family welfare.
IIPS interviewed 8,500 married and unmarried youths. The married ones were aged
15 to 29 and unmarried ones 15 to 24. The study was completed late last year.
While 87.8% of single girls had heard of HIV/AIDS, only 40.4% could identify
two ways of preventing it and knew healthy-looking persons could transmit it.
Not surprisingly, youngsters knocking at the doors of city sexual health
clinics are full of misconceptions. "It isn't unusual to see teens walking in
and asking for a spray or medicated cigarettes to improve their sexual
performance," said Dr Sanjay Chauhan of the National Institute for Research in
Reproductive Health, which runs two centres, called Jagruti, in Parel for
adolescents below 24. The ignorance is worrying given that this is the most
sexually active group. At the Jagruti centres, nearly 1% of 1,300 youngsters
over the past two years asked for pregnancy confirmation.
Myths - such as masturbation can lead to problems like impotence or
tuberculosis - are reinforced as teens often turn to 'ignorant' friends for
sexual advice, pointed out professor of sexual medicine Prakash Kothari, who
runs a clinic at Opera House. "We find that parents and even teachers are often
hesitant about discussing sex and sexuality openly," said Kothari. This was
corroborated in the IIPS study, which found that only 0.2% of unmarried boys in
the state had ever discussed sexual and reproductive matters with their
"We are able to cater to barely 30% of youngsters in Parel. One of the
challenges we face is that youngsters who come in for condoms often run away
after getting them. They aren't interested in the counselling or education,"
said Chauhan. "The only way to bust this darkness is to have sex education,"
said Kothari, who feels addressing behavioural changes would help promote love
and its expression.