Episode description

Conversations around sexual health and education need to be had on a regular basis in the 21st century. But, are we really having these conversations?

Our guest – Dr Niveditha Manokaran is a dermatologist and a venereologist from India. She works as a clinician in sexual and reproductive health and HIV medicine in Sydney. She is a TEDx speaker, Sex educator, sex positivity advocate and domestic violence (DV) awareness advocate.

Nive is the founder and CEO of the brand ‘Untaboos’ which focusses mainly on women’s health, youth sexual and reproductive health, contraception and DV. Nive is an influencer and a motivational speaker who diligently works for woman empowerment and be the voice of many unheard women.

More info on:

Instagram – @untaboos

Produced by Chris Mallika Bhadra. You can find more of Chris’s media projects at:


The following transcript has been automatically generated and may contain errors.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience by three Triple Z. I’m Chris Malikah Basra. And today or tonight, depending on of part of the world you’re listening to us from I’m going to talk about something that’s very, very important, something this 21st century, the new generation and one generation behind us. We need to start talking about it. And today, the question that we have for all of you is, is sex education or sex ed necessary for all of us? But before I introduce my guest, I would like to begin the show by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting tonight, the people of the Kulin Nation. I would also like to pay my respect to the elders past, present and emerging. I have with me Dr. Niveditha or Dr. Nivi, as she likes to be called. Dr. Nivedita Manokaran is a dermatologist and a virologist from India. She works as a clinician in sexual and reproductive health and HIV medicine in Sydney. She is a TEDx speaker, sex educator, sex positivity advocate and domestic violence awareness advocate. Dr. Nivi is the founder and the CEO of the brand Antabuse, which focuses mainly on women’s health, youth, sexual and reproductive health, contraception and domestic violence. She is an influencer and motivational speaker who diligently works for women empowerment and be the voice of many unheard women. Dr. Nev’s motto is to break the taboo and make it possible to have open conversations about sex, sexuality, sexual preferences and STIs and other stigmatized topics like abuse, domestic violence, divorce and mental health. On that note, Dr. Navy, thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:01:59] Hi, Chris. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m doing well and I hope you’re well, too.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:02:04] Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to speak with amazing people like yourselves. Um, but let’s let’s just kind of get into the conversation. The first question that I would like to know from you is what are some of the common stigmas around sex education?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:02:17] Well, the most commonest thing I usually think and I know that many parents especially believe, is that if you introduce sex education in among youngsters especially, they have a belief that they will start having sex because of that at a early age. And I really want to say that that’s a myth. Uh, you know, because there is so much research that has proven because it’s who you teach sex education, who you make them aware of what sex is and what is consent, what is do’s, what is. Don’t actually initiate the sexual debut at a much later stage than those who have not been spoken about sex for who Sex is a mystery for who they want to try out and see what all this is about because it’s not spoken about. So that is the most commonest myth, because parents are scared. Oh, my God. If we talk about sex to our youngsters, does that mean we are telling them something they don’t know? But I think what we have to understand here is independent of whether you talk to them about sex or not, independent of whether somebody spoke to you about sex or not. We are all, you know, sexual beings and wanting to have sex is a need. And it is going to happen whether you talk about it or not. If you talk about it, then you prevent a lot of, you know, mishaps that comes along with not having good sex education or not being aware of things that are associated with sex. And it probably gives you a better lifestyle.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:03:48] Absolutely. That’s that’s so true. But now, speaking of parents, I know I think parents are mostly South Asian parents have this fear that I can’t open up and it’s intergenerational as well. But if I have to continue the point that in your opinion, is it a good idea to implement sex education in schools?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:04:07] Yes, 100%. And I think, you know, more than just, say, chapter 12, the reproductive system. I think that’s all we read in school. I think we have to go beyond that. Chapter 12 and talk about sex education, definitely at the level of school. Chris I think it’s also about acceptance that people as young as, you know, 16 and 17, they all are, you know, have attained puberty and are having sexual needs. And I think the more we are in denial and the more we don’t want to accept the fact that youngsters do have sexual need, we are not going to address it. And that case we feel like, what is the urgency? We don’t have to talk about sex in school and things like that. But in all honesty, earlier the better. So for like, for example, we give Gardasil vaccine for children who are 11 to 13 years of age. Because research has proven after 14 and above, there is a good chance that people are becoming sexually active. So that is why we are trying to target, you know, both boys and girls before that particular age, before the sexual need and before, you know, the chance of them having sex starts. So so exactly the same reason why we should have sex ed in school rather than wait till it’s already done in a way, you know, or unsafe or without consent, without condoms, without protection, you know, risk of STIs, all of that. All of that needs to be done before because as we know, prevention is better than cure. So in order to be able to prevent things, you know, after it has already happened, school is an ideal place where sex education should be started and done.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:05:46] Absolutely. I totally agree with you. But these are all the positive sides or the pros of having sex ed or the discussion. If I have to be the devil’s advocate here, what are the negative effects of having sex education or even talking about these things?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:06:00] Sure. See, I mean, I don’t believe that the word education can have a negative effect. Right. Whether it doesn’t matter, even if you’re educating yourself about anything like, you know, mental health, educating yourself about, you know, narcissism, toxic relationships, um, even like, you know, the mental health of criminals and criminal records as diverse or as bad, the situation sounds and educating yourself about something, even if it’s very adverse, even if it’s very bad, cannot be a bad thing. Cannot be a bad thing. So educating yourself about sex education, I don’t see a negative side of education at all. So I’m going to say I can’t give you a pointer there. No.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:06:45] Fair enough. But having said that, you know, a lot of unplanned or unprotected sex also leads to STIs. Right. But do you think that is there enough awareness around STIs in our communities?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:06:59] No, I don’t think there is enough awareness because there is denial. We are in denial that sex is not happening in our communities or at least pre-marital. We are in denial that sex is not happening among youngsters. So if we are in that kind of denial, like you said, then we don’t get educated. We don’t get we don’t go and read because according to us, we think sex is not happening and we always feel like STIs or even sex or youngsters. It’s all happening to someone else in our in our idea. It’s always it’s not me. It’s not happening in my household. It’s always someone else. And I think in that attitude, it’s really sad that we are not able to, you know, get enough education or, you know, educate people about STIs and about using condoms and about prevention of sexually transmitted infections, prevention of unwanted pregnancy, prevention of, you know, terminations that happens after the pregnancy has happened and also unwanted stress among youngsters. You know, the whole it’s so common that youngsters have unprotected sex and very embarrassed to go and get condoms, are not aware of condoms and using withdrawal method and try to withdraw. And then even a few day delay in the periods brings extreme anxiety, extreme anxiety, saying, oh my God, my periods is delayed, am I pregnant or not? Just all of this, You know, in order to prevent all this, I think acceptance is the key. We have to accept that this this is happening. You know, we’ve reached a world population of, you know, 7 billion. And, you know, India has leading the world in population. Today we have crossed China. So I think it’s high time we, you know, accept that sex is a real thing. It’s happening. And we have to start knowing things about prevention around sex. Then we can talk about STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:08:49] Absolutely. And when we talk about STIs and unwanted teenage pregnancies, maybe how can we raise more awareness around unwanted pregnancies and all the baggage and all the emotional trauma that comes with it? How do you raise more awareness about it in the society?

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:09:06] Right. Look, I think it’s multiple approach process, raising awareness. I mean, just sex education and then forgetting about it and then them going to a household which is extremely conservative, where parents don’t want to hear about the word sex, don’t want to talk about it, and things like that, doesn’t really then, you know, go hand in hand with the education that they received in, you know, school or college or whatever. So I’ve I feel it’s a team effort. There has to be a society that is accepting of it and a society that is actually supporting the youngsters through this. And the second most important thing in order to prevent all this is trust, you know, so if you don’t trust your children and if you don’t let your children know that it doesn’t matter, no matter what, you can come to me and no matter what, I’m going to support you through this. Then you’re not building the relationship with them then? Yeah. Then actually bringing that awareness and also preventing, you know, these kind of things becomes very difficult because even if there is a sexual assault, sexual abuse, if they feel like the parents may be upset, if I go and tell them that this has happened, or maybe they’ll tell us, this is why I tell you, don’t go outside the house after 6 p.m.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:10:24] or something like that. This is why I tell you, don’t wear, you know, shorts, clothes or don’t wear sleeveless. If you are going to be a parent, you know, that is conservative from a conservative background or culture and not ready to change or accept whatever that’s happening now, it’s difficult for that youngster to come and tell you if something has happened to them. So if we want to really stop, you know, all these things, there has to be a safe space. And that safe space cannot just be school. And the teachers talking about sex ed on one day, it definitely has to be home as well. Home has to be a safe space. It can’t be a space where you’re being scared that you’ll be judged. You know, if you go and tell them that something has happened to you or if you want to go and tell them I had unprotected sex, I think I might have something. I need to have an STI test. Where do I go? Those kind of help, those kind of support. If you feel like you’re not going to get that at home, if that’s not your safe space, then it’s really hard to bring on this to the entire society and community.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:11:26] So I feel like you said, sex education in school, I always believe should include parents as well. And I think that’s a big way, again, to go about doing this, because even like year five, year six, usually parents, as in, are invited to school sex education along with the kids. It just puts a better place because when we’re talking about consent, then the child is present, the teacher is present, but also the parent is present. So I guess everybody are kind of in a platform where we have to accept that sex could happen and sometimes it could be with or without consent and without consent is not okay. And the child also sees that the parent is also listening to all of this and is actually accepting of it. So if it were to happen or something like that, and if they’re not going to talk to the teacher, they know that the parent was sitting through this. And the parent also understands how this works and all of that. So I think creating that safe space for all youngsters is very important in order to bring change.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:12:21] Absolutely. Totally, totally agree. But before we let you go, maybe one last question, not a question. I think I would just ask to kind of pick your brains about the message that you would like to share about, you know, resilience and grit to our community and our listeners.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:12:36] See, I think we have reached a point that we have to accept change as adults. Only then we can help our children. So as adults, if we don’t accept what we have been taught culturally, you know, culturally we have learned many things. So for us, I think it’s time to unlearn. So I think that is what I’d like to tell people. It’s okay to unlearn. We have learned things a certain way and unlearning and learning the new norm or learning what is probably more helpful for our children and our future is probably the way to go forward. So I always tell people now it’s not even about teaching people things. It’s not even about learning. It’s about unlearning the amount of things we have learned, which is probably very damaging for, you know, today’s young, not only just youngsters, even for ourselves. You know, there’s so much of unlearning we have to do. So I think we I really recommend that everybody should be open for change. And the main change is you must start unlearning many things that we have learned as a part of a very conservative culture and have been in denial. So that is what I would like to tell people, is stop being in denial and start accepting what is reality. And please be supportive to, you know, youngsters and kids and don’t make them feel, you know, the shame associated with sex is not necessary. The stigma associated with both sex or STIs, it’s not necessary. It’s time to feel like sex is common. Stis are also common. Testing has to be common. And talking about all of this on dining table and saying, Yeah, I got tested, yeah, I’m all clean, should be a very normal conversation. And I think that’s where I think I would like that. I would like that to happen.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:14:20] And I would like that too, because I know when we were growing up, this wasn’t common at all. It was very hush hush affair. But I hope things get better when we our children grow up and they are growing up already.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:14:32] But I think for that we have to change. For that we have to unlearn, you know what I mean? It’s not something that we’re going to bring. Yes, we’re going to teach them as well. But to achieve that, we first have to change as a generation. And yeah.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:14:44] And I think somewhere that change is happening, but it just takes time.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:14:47] But takes time. Takes time, definitely.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:14:49] But Navy, thank you so much. On that note, it was wonderful speaking with you in such a topical issue. And I’m sure the more we talk about it, the better, because these things never go old fashioned. Think it’s as you said, whole process of unlearning needs to happen. And to our listeners, those of you who’ve heard us for the first time, I really hope you had a lot to take away from Dr. Nev’s experience, be it your a parent, a young teenager, adolescent, whoever. Please learn accordingly. Unlearn accordingly. Yeah. Sorry. Apologies, guys. There was a little hitch glitch in technology. This keeps happening. 21st century. So we need to kind of unlearn technology as well. Before I wrap up the session, I would just like to mention Dr. Navy has an Instagram page, which she actively follows. Dr. Navy, can we please have the social media handle for you? Yes.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:15:41] So the Instagram page is Dr. Underscore, Navy underscore and taboos. And on Facebook it’s on taboos itself. And yes, so there are some YouTube videos and there’s a whole bunch of stuff about sex education. But I also talk a lot about abuse and domestic violence and other things that are taboo in our community.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:16:02] Amazing. Both those of you who’ve heard us for the first time, you hope you’ve had a lot to take away. If you’re a parent, if you’re a teenager, unlearn accordingly and learn accordingly. Please go follow Dr. Navy on Instagram and Facebook. And if you’ve heard us for a while, I really hope that you’ve liked the content that we put up on stories of community resilience. And if you’ve got a story to share, please write to us. Please write to me. I’ll be on Facebook and I’ll be back again with another story of community resilience. Till then, we are living in very difficult times. Please take care and stay safe. Dr. Navy, thank you again for joining us. Have a great night.

Dr Niveditha Manokaran: [00:16:36] Thank you so much, Chris. You too.

Chris Malikah Basra: [00:16:41] This has been a story of community resilience by three triple zed.