A new survey finds youngsters ignorant about protection, but brazen about being permissive
MUMBAI: "I used to be invited to parties, but once people realised I had an inhibition about having sex, I stopped receiving invitations," says Ritika Kapoor, a BCom student in Mumbai, citing an example of the pressure on students to be permissive.
A new survey conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), a UN-based body, confirms that youngsters in India are getting more sexually active. "The reason why most kids had sex was peer pressure. In the case of girls, the commonest reason was pressure from the partner. Many were led to believe that refusing to have sex would ruin the relationship. Pleasure or experimentation was nowhere near the top of the list of reasons," said Sanjay Mohanty, a co-ordinator of the survey which was completed late last year. The research will soon be presented to the government which is formulating a national youth policy.
Annisha Tandon, a 17-year-old student of a suburban Mumbai college, has no qualms over admitting she indulges in sex because she wants to be 'cool'. "Every weekend my group heads to my friend's farmhouse at Alibaug. It's not mandatory to have sex, but we all do it."
Nitin Khataria, a BMS student at a South Mumbai college, says that a relationship for him begins with sex. "I have dated girls but neither of us ever insists on knowing each other. It is about spending a good time together."
In an earlier study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, more than a third of the respondents reported having sexual intercourse before the age of 18. Now the activity has increased with students having more money to spend as well as opportunity.
Hotels have come up around colleges to cater to this young crowd, some offering rooms on an hourly basis, or chadarbadli as they call it, for Rs200-500. A manager at a hotel in Juhu says, "We allow students to use the rooms on an hourly basis. It helps when the business is low."
"You can also ask the hotel staff for condoms if you forget to carry protection," says Rina Madan, an 18-year-old.
Those who can't afford hotels go to coffee shops where the staff provides the couple with curtains and dustbins for an extra cost. A popular chain of coffee shops in Mumbai is known to provide students with condoms too on request.
There are other options. A parking lot at a restaurant in Juhu is a popular hub for student sex. Ripal Shah, a 17-year-old commerce student, says, "The parking cost is Rs30. Tip an extra Rs30 to the man who parks your car, and you get to enjoy with your partner at the parking lot itself."
On week-ends, the action moves to beaches or resorts in Madh, Alibaug and Aksa. "Small hotels on beaches charge only Rs60 for an hour. We spend Rs200 driving to and fro, so it is reasonable," says Manish Khanna, who drives from Versova to Madh almost every weekend.
Discotheques too have started catering to students. A suburban disc that runs in a hotel offers students the option of staying back in the hotel. "When the manager got to know we were regulars, he asked us for the disco-stamp and offered us a discount on the accommodation," says Mitesh Kumar, a BMM student.
But even as more youngsters indulge in casual sex, experts say sex education has not kept up with the sexual activity, leading to risky behaviour.
The IIPS study across six states, which questioned youngsters in the 15-24 age group, had some startling findings. Less than half of the youth interviewed knew that the first intercourse could make a woman pregnant. Only about a third of the young women had the correct information about condoms, and even fewer were well-informed about oral pills and IUDs. Most of them had no idea about spacing methods.
"Most youngsters have only a superficial knowledge about sex, protection or AIDS. In several cases, youngsters claim to have heard of contraceptives, but when you ask them for specifics they are at a loss. The situation regarding abortion is the same," says Mohanty.
Doctors say sexually transmitted diseases too are on the rise because of unprotected sex, especially amongst youngsters, many of whom think taking the morning-after pill will do.
"Guys always talk of safe sex, but when they get down to the act, they don't consider wearing condoms. This is scary, but I always carry pills to be on the safe side," says Annisha.