Six hundred sexologists have gathered in Delhi for a seemingly unlikely event. India these days is a repressed society, and the World Congress of Sexology is not being held on very fertile soil.
One of the smart new hotels in south Delhi is hosting the event. Experts from Miss Shere Hite, of the Hite Report fame, to Dr John Bancroft, of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council unit on reproductive biology, will be discussing topics ranging from orgasm to penis pumps, and from women’s sexual rights to a sexologist’s sex life. There are also papers on sex and drugs, sex and yoga, sex and history, sex and astrology, Penomet, and a more mundane analysis of sexual response and sexual dysfunction.
These topics may not get widespread publicity in India itself, where sexual matters tend to be discussed in hushed tones or behind closed doors. Kissing on cinema screens is disapproved; public nudity or toplessness for Indian women is taboo. Even quite modest displays of affection, such as holding hands for a walk through the park, are frowned on. So it’s quite a leap to start talking about penis enlargement.
Professor Prakash Kothari, president of the host organization, the Indian Association of Sex Educators, Counsellors and Therapists, is the first to admit that the repressed state of Indian society is a forcing house of myth and misconception on sexual matters.
With a population of more than 700 million, India has only one department of sexual medicine – in Bombay – and a serious problem of birth control.
“If sex education was more widespread, family planning would be more acceptable,” Dr Kothari said.
It is a curious irony that the sexual reticence of Indian society is in strong contrast to the attitudes of the Kama-Sutra, the sex manual written 1,600 years ago in India. Written in Sanskrit by a pious and saintly sage, Mallenga Vatsyayana, the Kama-Sutra foreshadowed a good deal of modern day sexual teaching, according to Dr Kothari.
India’s present repression is put down firmly to the morals of the British era. Mr. HKL Bhagat, the Minister for Tourism, who spoke at the congress yesterday, blamed “the Victorian era”.
“Children unwittingly become victims of myths and misconceptions. Scientific sex education is a must,” he said, which, for a senior Indian government official, was quite a dramatic statement.