oung adults who take a vow of virginity as adolescents are as likely to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases as those who do not take virginity pledges, according to researchers at the Yale and Columbia University, United States of America.
The virginity pledges may even encourage higher risk sexual behaviour among young adults, say study authors Hannah Breckner, assistant professor of sociology at Yale University, and Peter Bearman, professor of sociology at Columbia University.
"We were surprised by the findings," said Breckner. "Pledgers have fewer sex partners than non-pledgers. They start having sex later and they marry earlier, so they should have lower STD rates, but they don't," he added.
One reason is that sexually active pledgers were less likely to use condoms at first sex than non-pledgers. Breckner and Bearman also note that pledgers were less likely to seek and obtain STD-related health care, possibly because of increased stigmatisation or misperception of infection risk among pledgers.
"If pledgers have infections for longer periods of time than non-pledgers, this is a reason for concern," said Breckner.
The authors said even though pledgers used condoms at the same rate as non-pledgers, the fact that they were less likely to use condoms earlier could be the why their STD rates remain high since they are less likely to be diagnosed.
Sexual trends in India, according to statistics presented by Avishkaar, a counselling clinic in Mumbai, threw up some alarming facts:
~ The all India occurrence of STDs in the age group of 18 to 30 is as high as 48 to 52 per cent!
Of this, approximately 60 per cent hail from the lower strata of society where there is a lack of awareness about safe sex. The figure is approximately 20 per cent among the middle and upper classes.
~ Premarital sex among 18- to 20-year-olds in metros is as high as 65.6 per cent amongst girls and 63.3 amongst boys.
The following reasons usually spark off such behaviour:
- People of this age are more prone to impulsive behaviour.
- Emotional instability and the use of sexual gratification as a means of relief.
- Peer pressure.
~ Extramarital affairs amongst married couples in the age group of 18 to 30 is as high as 10 to12 per cent. Post-30, this figure increases due to the onset of boredom in marriages.
Malini Shah, a youth counsellor, says, "Premarital sex is on the rise across all stratas especially in the metros. However, in the middle classes and upper middle classes, these issues are still considered taboo and are done clandestinely. Among the upper middle classes, it is being accepted as a lifestyle trend."
With sexual promiscuity on the rise, it is important to understand the risks involved in having multiple partners as well as premarital sex.
Dr Duru Shah, a consulting obstetrician and gynaecologist, who runs a clinic and consults with the Breach Candy Hospital, Jaslok Hospital and HN Hospital, Mumbai, offers some facts and tips:
i. When it comes to STDs, only 'barrier' contraceptives work. Thus one has to use a condom, as opposed to pills which are oral contraceptives.
ii. Women must insist that male partners use a condom.
iii. A condom especially designed for women is also available. However, it may not prove to be very comfortable. It is also more expensive (approximately Rs 65), than the male condom and is not easily available even in the metros.
iv. In spite of using a condom, the risk of infection when having sexual intercourse with an infected person is very high.
The casualty rate when using oral contraceptive like pills to prevent pregnancy is one in a thousand. Condoms are ten times less likely to work than pills.
v. For those who have multiple partners, be very discreet when choosing partners.
With inputs by Merril Diniz