Latest post:

Hippocratic Oath — Indian diary (6)
November 4th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Hippocratic Oath — Indian diary (6)

   The modern medical oath in India starts with:
• I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to service of humanity.
• Even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of Humanity.
• I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception.
I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.
• I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity.
The health of my patient will be my first consideration.

   But as +Eric Gallagher puts it, a promise is useful for knowing a person only when you can watch to see if they keep it  (

   So a candidate for the name-and-shame-a-politician of the year (given how large the impacted population is) is India's health minister, Harsh Vardhan, who called in June for a ban on "so-called sexual education" — calling instead for what he deems "culturally appropriate" education.

   Apparently, "culturally appropriate" means perpetuating the ignorance of most people (and notably girls and women) while also accepting big money for exploiting the weakest: neither the minister nor the Western clients see any ethical difficulty with surrogacy business exploiting poor Indian women (as mentioned in +Fariyal Wallez's intensively personal "let's talk about sex"
   Although Harsh Vardhan is an otorhinolaryngologist, not a specialist of sexuality, he's still a medical doctor… and he's still informed enough about sexuality to know that he's breaking his medical oath by taking this politically- and religiously-inspired position.

   The one fact about sexuality that all doctors know and that no political or religious consideration will change is that people have sex!
   If you don't legalise abortion, people simply have back-street abortions (or they even murder newborns). If you don't teach about protection, people simply have unprotected sex. If you don't teach about biology, women (and even girls) will get pregnant. And if you expect all young people to be virgins on the day of their marriage, between 1/4 and 1/3 of India's youth experiences pre-marital sex.
   Opponents argue for a ban on sex education in schools on the ground that it corrupts the youth and offends "Indian values." They contend that it may lead to promiscuity, experimentation and irresponsible sexual behaviour. Doctors know better: experimentation happens anyway, and irresponsibility lies in letting experimentation happen in the dark!
   The one policy about sexuality that all doctors know necessary to protect the health of patients, and that no political or religious consideration will change, is education.
   By the age of 18, 28% of Indian women will have given birth to a child and 49% will be married. Of 2.5 million people in India who are HIV+, 50% of all new infections take place amongst young people between 15–24 years of age…

   Sexuality education includes (but is not limited to):
human  sexual anatomy (flowers don't count),
human  sexual reproduction,
human  reproductive health,
• reproductive rights and responsibilities,
• emotional relations,
• contraception,
• other aspects of human sexual and non-sexual behaviour: sexual orientation, abuse (unfortunately impacting more than 1/2 child in India!), etc.
   and like any other core education, it's a human right (as it directly impacts human health). The fact that it's socially uncomfortable doesn't allow to ignore the risks induced by a lack  of education.

   Now, of course, India is not the sole country affected by bigoted politicians with ignorant programs… Unfortunately, India looks up to two countries mostly: UK and USA, neither of them shining in terms of responsible politicians not letting religious stupidity affect policies.
   Many 'conservatives' are elected on a program of "fiscal greed" (why would I share what I have?), hence illustrating perfectly how greed can bias ethical judgement, with consequences on a global (rather than solely local) scale.

   The problem is of course not the politicians. The problem is the voters who support —or at least don't challenge enough— such irresponsible clowns who, based on Bible or Indian-ness, maintain people in dukkha  (unsatisfactory status quo, ordinary life… with its high rates of teen pregnancies, etc.). And when politicians issue policies that were not part of the platforms, the problem still lies with the voters who are too apathetic to care (notably if they don't have —yet, or any longer— kids of age).

   Reality as it is? People have sex. As buddhist, you should promote the cessation of ignorance (and not let personal preferences bias your decisions for the benefit of all), which means promoting sexual education… even if that's taboo in your society!
   Reality as it is? People have sex. Don't deny it, responsibly deal with it: educate, and ensure (by votes, petitions, letters, protests…) that the politicians who 'represent' you don't hurt the next generations!

Further reading:
Photo © David Lowry (
Indian culture offers a gate into sexual education in its temples… but having a bunch of kids giggling during a visit of a temple isn't enough!