Is sex today a taboo in the homeland of Kamasutra?

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—In early August, the Indian government issued a ban on pornography, blocking 857 websites hosting pornographic content. Understandably, the Indian people took to social media to express their outrage and mock the government’s decision, which was reversed a few days later.

The hashtag #Pornban trended on Twitter after the ban drew criticism from many Indian public figures and Internet users, fueling nationwide debate about censorship and freedom.

As a young global citizen, I find it hard to believe why a country like India would express such a non-tolerant attitude towards sex while our history looks at it in a much more liberal manner.

My home country, India, is generally conservative about sex. In fact, most parents go their entire lifetime without ever discussing “the birds and the bees” with their children. These kids usually learn about sex from friends, siblings, cousins, the internet or movies. Young adults are not encouraged to go on dates and even if they were, a strong “moral policing” is an integral part of the Indian society.

All this may sound pretty stressful, but it is important to acknowledge that India, a country with such a rich cultural heritage, wasn’t always as reserved about sex. There was a time when the Indian society was open, accepting and, in many cases, truly celebrated sexuality.

Cover art for Vatsyayan's Kamasutra, an Indian book depicting sexual intercourse.

Cover art for Vatsyayan's Kamasutra, an Indian book depicting sexual intercourse.

The Kamasutra, a book written in India, is widely considered the oldest sex manual known to man. Said to have been registered between 400 BCE and 200 CE, the book features details about human sexual behavior and even offers advice on sexual intercourse.

Another example of ancient India’s celebration of sexuality is the Ajanta & Ellora caves in Aurangabad, India. The caves are decorated with paintings and sculptures depicting both heterosexual and homosexual couples. The temples in Khajuraho, also depicting sexual acts, are said to have been built between 950 and 1050 CE.

Across the globe, each country has its own unique outlook on sex. The Pew Research center conducted a recent study titled, “Global Views on Morality”. The survey asked people in 40 countries about behavior they considered morally unacceptable, morally acceptable, or not a moral issue. Their responses covered eight themes – extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol, divorce and contraception.

Cover art for Vatsyayan's Kamasutra, an Indian book depicting sexual intercourse.

Cover art for Vatsyayan's Kamasutra, an Indian book depicting sexual intercourse.

Results of the survey revealed that some African countries and those with a predominantly Muslim population deemed most of these activities morally unacceptable. In more developed countries, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and North America, people tend to be more accepting of these issues.

Regardless of our views, acceptance or the lack of it, the important fact is to have a population that is well educated and aware. At the most basic level, young people who grow into adulthood with accurate and comprehensive information about sexual health are more likely to make choices that enable them to lead healthy and productive lives.

The leaders of the Indian nation are better off using their resources to build a strong sexual education program and roll it out across the country to raise awareness about the subject. This would surely result in an educated, respectful and moral young population.

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