Though we live in the Information Age, there can sometimes be an absolute lack of information and conversation on topics that are considered “taboo”. One such conversation is sex and sex education, a topic which Sri Lankan culture frequently sweeps under the rug because of its “unseemly nature”. Unfortunately, this often leads to the younger generation having a significant knowledge gap when it comes to sex, sexuality, and sex education.
The Morning Brunch reached out to entrepreneur, law graduate, and talk show host Kishani Alanki Perera who recently appeared on Durex Sri Lanka’s Pillow Talk with Danu, discussing the need for more open conversations on sex and sex education, getting her views on how we can address and build awareness on conversations that can be considered “taboo”.
Importance of awareness and open conversation
Knowledge truly is power, and lack of awareness means kids and young adults are not aware of things like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because they aren’t comfortable having discussions.
“We need to educate kids and young adults on the importance of things like protection, and normalise this sort of discussion, even among those who don’t have access to such education,” Perera said, adding that awareness will help prevent things like unwanted pregnancies and abortions, many of which take place because of knowledge gaps in teens and young adults when it comes to sex and contraception.
Open conversations also help societal shifts take place. “I think society at large, in Sri Lanka, objectifies women, which comes through in catcalling, sexual harassment, and harassment on public transport. Women are seen as sex objects. If we normalise these conversations and build awareness, women wouldn’t be looked at and treated this way,” Perera said.
Speaking on why sex is considered such a taboo in Sri Lanka, Perera shared that this is in part due to our culture. “Sri Lankans believe it’s not a part of our culture to discuss such things and that this is inappropriate. They believe private matters should be kept private. This is changing in the younger generation – a lot of young adults and kids are open to having conversations now. It’s not as taboo as it used to be, but in general, when you think of it, it is still very taboo,” ,” Perera elaborated.
This social censure combined with a lack of education, and often compounded by teachers who shy away from the topic, contribute heavily to sex being such a taboo subject. Perera explained that this lack of discussion, especially on the part of teachers, contributes to why people are uneducated. “Discussion begins at home and continues at school. If parents and teachers can feel free to educate kids on this topic, then it wouldn’t be very taboo,” Perera explained.
Bridging the gap
Perera shared that fixing the gaps in knowledge when it comes to sex and sex education is something that needs to be approached from multiple fronts. “Firstly, parents should feel comfortable talking to their kids when they feel their kids are old enough to grasp the subject and educate them about sex as well as how to protect yourself from STDs and unwanted pregnancies. If parents are very open with their kids, kids too will feel comfortable coming to their parents with an issue,” Perera said.
“Secondly, sex-ed should be made compulsory in schools. Thirdly, organisations or the Government can actually have awareness programmes and projects to help raise awareness, especially in rural areas.”
Awareness and sex education in the digital age
Recent years, and especially 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, have seen an exponential rise in people interacting and living their lives digitally. Speaking on whether this increased digital presence as a good thing, Perera shared that to her, it was a positive.
“Everyone uses social media nowadays. It’s a good platform to raise awareness. I don’t think it is negative because things can change when the pandemic is over, and then you can slowly move from having online conversations to having real conversations. At the same time, most kids are being homeschooled these days, so because of that, parents can actually have these conversations physically with their kids. For those who are unable to have this conversation with their parents, having access to social media becomes important.”