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Appetite for sex: addressing the societal realities and advocating for early marriage in India

IndiaAppetite for sex: addressing the societal realities and advocating for early marriage in India

Changing social norms in India prompt discussions on delayed marriage and how individuals manage their sexual needs

The pursuit of satisfying basic human needs is a driving force in society. After the appetite for food, the appetite for sex stands as one of the most compelling. This reality is often shrouded in societal taboos and cultural constraints, yet it remains a critical aspect of human existence that deserves attention and understanding. In the Indian context, navigating the complexities of sexual desires, societal expectations, and the institution of marriage presents unique challenges and opportunities.

Marriage and sexuality in India

In India, the average age of marriage has been gradually increasing. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), the median age at first marriage for women aged 20-24 is now 21.2 years, while for men, it is 26.1 years. These figures indicate a significant shift from earlier generations where early marriages were more prevalent.

The primary reasons for this shift include increased emphasis on education, career aspirations, and economic stability. Similar to Pakistan, Indian men are often expected to establish a stable income before considering marriage. This delay, however, coincides with the peak years of sexual desire, typically between the ages of 18 to 25. For many, this period is marked by intense sexual urges and physical vitality.

Societal dilemma

The delay in marriage poses a significant challenge, particularly in a society where open discussions about sex remain taboo. The gap between puberty and marriage can lead to various issues, including frustration, mental health struggles, and in some cases, engagement in premarital sexual activities, which are often frowned upon culturally.

A comprehensive study by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in 2021 revealed that about 15% of young men and 6% of young women in India have had premarital sex, despite societal norms discouraging such behavior. This highlights the disconnect between natural human desires and societal expectations.

Early marriages: a double-edged sword?

In some Indian communities, particularly in rural and tribal areas, early marriages are still common. According to NFHS-5, 23.3% of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. These early marriages are often justified by cultural practices and the belief that marrying young can help control sexual urges and avoid premarital sexual activities.

While early marriage might align with the period of peak sexual desire, it also comes with significant drawbacks. Early marriages can hinder educational and career opportunities, particularly for women. Childbearing at a young age poses health risks for both mother and child. Moreover, early marriages often place young individuals in roles and responsibilities they may not be psychologically or emotionally prepared for.

Need for open dialogue and practical solutions

The taboo surrounding sex and sexuality in India often leads to misinformation and unhealthy practices. There is a pressing need for open dialogue and comprehensive sex education that addresses not just the biological aspects of sex but also the emotional, social, and ethical dimensions.

In urban areas, there has been some progress. Schools and colleges are beginning to introduce sex education programs, although the coverage and quality vary significantly. In rural areas, however, such initiatives are still lacking. Bridging this gap is crucial for promoting healthier attitudes towards sex and relationships.

Pitfalls of live-in relationships

Living in a relationship without formal commitment often lacks the security and stability that many seek in a traditional partnership. In many cultures, particularly those bound by strong religious faiths, such relationships are not approved and face social stigmatization. This disapproval can create external pressures that exacerbate the internal challenges of the relationship. Frequent breakups and the transient nature of such arrangements can leave individuals with significant emotional and mental trauma, making it difficult for them to trust and engage in future relationships.

Moreover, the absence of a structured commitment in live-in relationships often leads to poor planning for important aspects of life, such as having and raising children. Without a clear sense of accountability and future planning, these relationships can fail to provide a stable family environment. As individuals age, especially within the context of Indian society, the opportunity to find a life partner for marriage diminishes, leaving them without the traditional support system of a family. This can lead to a sense of isolation and unfulfillment in later years, highlighting the potential long-term drawbacks of choosing live-in relationships over more conventional, committed forms of partnership.

Advocating for early marriage

Given the natural appetite for sex and the societal challenges that arise from delaying marriage, advocating for early marriage can be a pragmatic approach, provided it is balanced with economic considerations. Both men and women should seek partners who meet minimum criteria rather than waiting for an ideal match. This realistic approach acknowledges that perfection is rare and mutual compatibility is key.

Focusing on character and moral behavior rather than idealized traits ensures a more stable and fulfilling relationship. By prioritizing early marriage, we can help young adults navigate their peak years of sexual desire in a healthy, socially accepted manner, while also fostering strong, supportive partnerships that contribute to their overall well-being.

The appetite for sex is a natural human drive that, when not addressed appropriately, can lead to various social and psychological issues. In India, the challenge lies in balancing cultural expectations with individual needs and aspirations. Encouraging early marriage within an economically feasible framework can serve as a viable solution to harmonize individual desires and societal norms. This approach promotes healthier relationships, reduces the risks associated with delayed marriage, and fosters a more understanding society. By focusing on character and moral behavior, we can build strong foundations for young couples, ultimately leading to more harmonious and fulfilling lives.

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