Gender, Sexuality and Abuse

What is the difference between sex and gender?
• There are only two sexes – male and female. Sex generally refers to the biology and anatomy of a person, while gender is a social concept. Biologically, the two sexes are similar with regard to other organ systems (e.g. Respiratory, Digestive, circulatory, excretory, etc.), but differ completely in their reproductive organ systems. It is about whether a person is born male or female.

Is sexuality a bad word?
• Sexuality is a natural and integral part of every individual’s personality, and includes men, women and even children. Our sexual orientation is a part of our sexuality. Sexuality is capacity for sexual feelings. Sexuality is not the same as intercourse; it is about love, contact, warmth, and closeness. In the mind it is expressed in thoughts, fantasies, emotions, desires, besides action and language. When it is expressed positively through consensual, mutually respectful and protected relationship, it enhances well being, health, and the quality of life. Conscious sexuality generally begins after puberty and/ or at pre-adolescence stage, which may come between 9-13 years.
Adolescence has been categorized into three stages of development: early, middle, and late.

- In early adolescence young adolescents begin to get distanced from members of the family and become increasingly influenced by their peers. However, they continue to value their parents’ guidance, especially on important life issues

- In middle adolescence, the ability to think abstractly begins to develop. Separation from the family increases and the desire to be accepted by one’s peers can exert a strong influence on behaviour. There is a strong desire for sexual experimentation although both boys and girls are emotionally not ready to accept the results and consequences of their actions. Remember the legal age of consensual sex is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

- In late adolescence, the process of physical maturation is completed. The ability to understand abstract concepts is achieved by many adolescents at this stage. Many of them understand what the results and consequences of their actions and behavior may be. There is greater independence from the family as well as from the peer group, and sexuality becomes more associated with commitment and planning for the future
What is sexual abuse?
• Sexual abuse includes verbal sexual abuse using a language with sexual overtones as well as unwanted contact in the form of touching and fondling to attempted rape and forced penetrative vaginal, oral or anal sex.
• Evidence suggests that a large number of young women and, to lesser extent, young men experience nonconsensual sex or sex without their consent or sexual abuse. This is a violation of a person’s rights. This can have severe physical, mental, and reproductive health consequences, including the risk of unintended pregnancy and contraction of HIV/ AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Who is a sexual abuser?
• Sexual abuser is usually a person with whom the victim is familiar, though not always so, including intimate partners, peers, family members, teachers, and other youth and adult acquaintances. Abuse can occur in premarital, extramarital, and marital situations. Young women and men do not talk about it because of getting a bad name and fear of not being understood by their elders and family. This encourages the abuser.
What are the consequences of sexual abuse?
• Sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence has multiple consequences such as adverse reproductive health and HIV- related outcomes, subsequent experience of violence at the hands of intimate partners and mental health problems.

What should be done if someone, particularly an adult misbehaves?
• If a friend, an acquaintance, an adult relative, a tutor or a neighbor behaves in a manner, which makes you feel uncomfortable, stop meeting and confiding in this person immediately. Talk to your parents and seek their advice. Be alert and watch for these signals:
Is that person
- using foul language
- Making undue personal remarks
- Unnecessarily touching your body by hugging, fondling, pressing or rubbing
All these could lead to sex abuse.

• Sometimes even aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, teachers, and tutors may make you uncomfortable. They may have intentions of sexual abuse. Watch for following signals. These constitute sexual abuse
 Hugging too close or too often
 Exposing of genitals
 Touching your genitals or any other part of the body, which makes you feel uncomfortable.
 Exposes you to pornographic material
 Makes sexual suggestions, or others.

• Remember, the best way of dealing with sexual abuse is to:
- Dissociate with the person immediately,
- Never meet them when you are alone,
- Confide in your parents or other elders whom you trust,
- Do not blame yourself,
- Don’t harm yourself by indulging in anti-social activities like taking drugs/alcohol, violence or crime.