Indian society is steeped in social stigma, and among the many taboos prevalent here, sex education is high-ranking. Attempts at educating the youth have been a futile effort and conversations around masturbation, sex, contraception, and relationships do not find a space in the formal set-up, leaving the young adult population in oblivion.
Apart from a vacuum that exists in this domain, there is also rampant misinformation spreading among youngsters. Realising this and in an attempt to normalise topics related to sex and sexuality so as to bring it to the mainstream, Niyati Sharma started Pratisandhi in 2018. The volunteer-run, youth initiative attempts to spread sexual health awareness among the masses.
As a non-profit organisation, Pratisandhi organises workshops in order to make sexuality education accessible for adolescents and young adults across India thereby forging a judgment-free environment.
Inspired by experiences
Sharma became cognizant of the gaps in sexuality education in India during a cultural exchange programme in Belgium. After witnessing how unrestricted the conversations around sexuality were there, she felt the need to bridge the gap in India, thereby launching Pratisandhi (a Sanskrit word that translates to disconnection; it represents a disconnect from stigma and taboos).
What started as a small initiative—Sharma and her team would share resources on sex education through their social media channels—quickly snowballed into a full-fledged venture with more than 100 volunteers. “We wanted to create a space where talking about sex was not stigma. We wanted to bridge the gap between the education we did not get in schools,” says Sharma, who was recently honoured with The Diana Award, an accolade conferred to young people aged between nine and 25, for their humanitarian work.
Pratisandhi primarily extends educational intervention through workshops, awareness campaigns, and programmes on various topics that can help their audience build an understanding of key issues, and thereby make conscious decisions. “Our aim is to enable them to make decisions for themselves rather than making a decision for them,” she says.
The team recently partnered with the Delhi Government to organise workshops on contraception and family planning at 30 shelter homes in the city. Reaching out to a wider audience, they try to disseminate information on myriad issues. They have also organised workshops with various groups and institutions and are building long-term solutions for school students so as to bridge the gap in sexuality education. Sharma says, “We offer 10-12 workshops encapsulating many topics.”
“I think that a lot of resistance to sex education comes from the lack of understanding of what it [sex education] is. When you mention sex education, people think on the lines of pornography, which is incorrect. We have seen that once people know what sex education entails or what the crux of it is, the resistance is less,” she concludes.