The Centre has launched a nationwide programme to end the misconceptions and ignorance among youth. About 1.6 lakh young boys and girls will work as peer educators to adolescents and respond to their queries on key health issues including sexual, physical and mental changes, nutrition and addiction.
The resource material prepared for these educators that was unveiled by Health Secretary C K Mishra treats the issue of homosexuality in the righteous way.
The kit explains the adolescents can feel attraction for same or opposite sex and it’s normal. Crucial in relationships is love, mutual consent, trust and respect.
The resource kit says, “Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. 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.”
The resource material also opposes gender stereotypes.
“A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy. 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’.
The resource material in Hindi is going to be circulated to states as part of the adolescent peer-education plan.This group of 1.65 lakh educators from young generation itself are called “Saathiya”
The peer educators who will be trained by the health department with the help of the resource material given out by the Centre will do voluntary work. They are being trained under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK).
The resource kit comprises an activity book, Bhranti-Kranti game, question-answer book and Peer Educator Diary.While short films will be played by the peer educators at their group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries.
The adolescents who are unable to interact with the peer educators can access the information through the free mobile app as well as a toll-free helpline. The mobile app is ‘Saathiya Salah’.
“Despite the expansion of media, there are many unanswered questions in the minds of young people in villages. Saathiya will address these questions. We are also talking about behavioural change and a change in thinking,” Secretary Mishra said.
The section also deals with awareness about HIV and STDs, use of pills and condoms, listing masturbation as one of the topmost options for practising “safe sex”. It also talks about addiction, smoking and alcohol laying down their harmful effects.
While section 377 still criminalizes homosexuality as ‘unnatural’, this small but progressive step forward by centre is applaudable.
Download the Saathiya app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.unfpa.saathiya