8 July:After centuries of acceptance, age-old sexual attitudes, one of the world’s oldest living civilizations, are facing different new challenges under the impact of its rapid economic and cultural transformation with globalization. In the 1960s, the traditional sexual liberalism India was a source for Western free love movements.
Kama Sutra, written in India some 1,500 years ago, remains one of the most methodical treatises on rituals of sexual congress in the world. But like the land of different views it is, India is now both a country opening up to the enormous changes brought by globalization, and a land where a public kiss sparks protests and the state runs campaigns to help men say the word "condom" without embarrassment. Traditional morality still treats sex as a sacred act, equating a woman’s worth to her virginity.
Many research surveys reveal growing sexual explicitness and pre /extra – marital affairs against a backdrop of women’s liberation, urbanization and migration. Young people, who make up more than 41 per cent of the population, are even more casual about sex.
And the attrition of traditional values has triggered numerous flashpoints and showdowns in the recent years, suggesting that conservative attitudes are transforming into intolerance and violence.
Ostensibly organized to defend traditional values, the countrywide protests are now an annual event. TV channels and cinema halls, which were focal points of conveying change, have also become a target. Recently, six states rejected the introduction of sex education in schools ¬ and re consultation started by NACO. This was also opposed by Hindu and Muslim radical elements – although India has up to 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS.
Recent months have also witnessed several protests against condom use and the "morning-after pill," which right-wing groups say "encourage promiscuous trends."
After an outcry against an actress who urged the use of condoms, protesters targeted varieties of condoms such as flavoured condoms and the "vibrating condom" (with a vibrating ring), saying the use of new sex toys was against Indian culture. There are many traditional sexual instruments described in the folk stories and Mugal and Kangra School of Paintings as well as pictorial presentations of Kama Sutra.
The latest controversy came with the new Twenty20 cricket championship in April when politicians heading state governments mulled banning cheer leaders, saying their low-cut tops and short skirts were vulgar and obscene for Indian society. As India goes through a metamorphosis that impacts every aspect of its identity, the clash of the values will decide whether the traditional institutions maintain control over sexuality.
But social scientists predict much turmoil ahead. Society’s attitudes are still largely defined by religion and family. There is a tremendous tension as a redefinition of sexuality is taking place. But we are certainly moving towards a period of friction and intolerance.