EDITORIAL Editorial K. ANIL KUMAR I Three thematic groups were...
EDITORIAL
Editorial
K. ANIL KUMAR
I
Three thematic groups were formed at the initiative of the Centre for
Health Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences with 'Sexuality in In-
dia' being one of them. This group aimed to bring together recent re-
search on various aspects of sexuality, promote primary research in
relatively ignored areas, and thus, contribute to the attempts to define
the scope and strategies of sexuality research in the future. I take this
opportunity to thank all the working group members from TISS and
the two external advisors (Dr. M. C. Watsa and Dr. Ravi Verma) for
their contribution to the various activities of the working group.
Two special issues of The Indian Journal of Social Work (IJSW)
bring together research on sexuality, most of which were presented at
a National Workshop in December 2000 and were subsequently re-
vised. This volume, the first among the two, includes seven papers
presented at the Workshop and one paper that illustrates the linkages
between research and action and addresses the construction of mascu-
linity among young men, an aspect that was not represented at the
Workshop. Reviews of two recent books on sexuality, included in this
issue, are expected to provide an update on the status of sexuality re-
search.
II
A decade ago, the IJSW brought out a special issue on 'Sexual Behav-
iour and AIDS in India' (Volume 55, Issue 4, October 1994) that car-
ried a set of articles presented at a workshop held at the Tata Institute
of Social Sciences. This workshop, more or less, coincided with the
beginning of sexuality research in India in the context of AIDS. Dur-
ing the last decade, sexuality research in India has grown in volume

522 K. Anil Kumar
and in many directions. The impetus for this growth has come mainly
from two sources: feminist, gender-based research; and the spread of
HIV/AIDS. The first source had a concern to understand and deal
with violence against women. Recognising the general neglect of
women's reproductive health, both by the family and the state, sexual-
ity was viewed as a key arena of violence and neglect. The other
source was the growing concern with the spread of HIV infection,
predominantly through the sexual mode of transmission, leading to a
fear of an epidemic. The above sources were instrumental in guiding
the research themes, methodology of research, and the overall theo-
retical orientation of sexuality research in India.
It is necessary to acknowledge the existence of a third stream of
sexuality research, emerging from the disciplinary concerns of sociol-
ogy and anthropology. These research do not direct themselves at
problem-solving and are located primarily at university departments;
the first two strands are more 'applied research' in nature. Population
studies-related sexuality research has been another characteristic of
sexuality research in India since the 1990s. The shift from family
planning to maternal and child health and subsequently to reproduc-
tive and child health has also coincided with the beginning of sexual-
ity research in the context of HIV/AIDS. The consensus arrived at the
International Conference of Population and Development has, over
the years, resulted in sexuality, sexual health and reproductive health
becoming priority areas in population research in India.
The different philosophies and purpose of research led to a situa-
tion where the strands of sexuality research (specifically academic
and non-academic) have largely remained aloof to each other. Recent
social science research on sexuality, ignoring contemporary changes
and by neglecting empirical research, has not been very useful to the
health researchers in conceptualising sexuality as being shaped by the
social structures, institutions and their ideologies. Health research, on
the other hand, in its enthusiasm to bring about societal changes (or
sexual behavioural changes) continues to undermine the significance
of structures and ideologies.
While the term 'sex' refers both to an act and to a category of person,
to a practice and to a gender (Weeks, 1986:13), the concept of sexuality
is almost all encompassing. It includes sexual identities; sexual norms;
sexual acts, practices and experiences, feelings, desires and fantasies;
sexual awareness and sexual knowledge: all these within hetero, homo
and other forms of sexual relations. Because sexuality is socially

Editorial 523
constructed and is structurally ingrained into every social institution,
social norms, values and social interactions, it becomes a means
through which power operates in society. The difficulty in researching
sexuality is enhanced by the fact that the social constructions and sub-
jective experiences vary with age, social class, community and gender
(Vance, 1984). In countries like ours, religion has an overarching influ-
ence on these constructions and experiences. It is precisely due to these
features that sexuality becomes a powerful conceptual tool, as argued
by many, to explore power and gender relations in a society (for
example, Dixon-Muller, 1993; Holland, Ramazonoglu, Sharpe and
Thomson, 1992). Much of sexuality research in India, although not
conceptualised thus, is dealing directly or indirectly with the exercise of
power— some at the structural level and many at the operational level.
Yet, there also exists a large volume of work that ignores the signifi-
cance of social power and reduces sexuality to individual acts and dis-
positions determined by the biology of body.
It is mainly through women-centred research that an understanding
of the gendered nature of sexuality and its varied constructions and
formations have emerged in India. For example, research on the struc-
tural arrangements that control female sexuality through confinement
and seclusion (Dube, 1988; Ganesh, 1989); marriage practices
(Uberoi, 1993), including practices of child marriages; restrictions on
widows; and the role of sexual ideology in subordinating female sexu-
ality have been highlighted by some of the studies (Gandhi and Shah,
1992). More recently, studies on violence towards women have
pointed out that sexuality is an important issue in producing as well as
resisting male violence. The pervasiveness of male violence in vary-
ing forms and degrees targeting female sexuality, the changing forms
of patriarchy both in the public as well as private domains, the chang-
ing construction of femininity and masculinity in the context of
globalisation, and the role played by the media are themes that need to
be researched.
Yet, it is the threat of an HIV epidemic that emerged during the late
1980s, that has provided the context for the growth of empirical re-
search on sexuality. The effort to control the spread of HIV was ini-
tially dominated by an epidemiological approach, which focused on
the identification of groups of potential victims or carriers, the
so-called 'pool of infection' or 'conduit of infection'. Subsequent re-
search revealed the transmission of the virus through heterosexual
routes in many countries, including India. This blurred the boundaries

524 K. Anil Kumar
of the 'pools of infection' and showed the entire population to be at
risk.
The articles in this and the forthcoming volume reflect all these ap-
proaches to sexuality and as well as a variety of concerns and method-
ological approaches to the study of sexuality.
III
The first four articles in this volume attempt to conceptualise sexual-
--y by exploring the array of meanings attributed to the term 'sex'.
These papers are distinct from each other in terms of their concerns as
well as their methods used for this exploration.
Ganesh' s enquiry is based on her experiences in conducting sexu-
ality research and running intervention programmes among young
people in Delhi. The stalling point for understanding and discussing
sexuality, according to her, is by interrogating oneself — what we
know and what we do not know. Such interrogations then lead to the
expansion of knowledge through research and this research culmi-
nates in a more general understanding of sexuality as it is lived out in
people's lives. Ganesh draws special attention to the importance of
taking sexuality research beyond the counting exercise of with who,
how many times, when, where, and so on. There is now a vast amount
of such data; yet we know very little about what meanings people at-
tribute to their acts and to their contexts and to the consequences of
their actions.
It is this acute sense to reach out, that determines the methods of re-
search. Ganesh underlines the need to bond with the group that they
work with, and advocates self-disclosure as a means of enquiry and
the need for the researcher to be a counsellor. She addresses the ethi-
cal dilemma of an activist researcher who may be required to switch
the roles of a researcher and an activist. The importance given to
self-disclosure and counselling are anathema to academic research-
ers, but these are issues that action research has thrown up time and
again. They have emerged from working with people, often in need
and distress. How does one deal with these issues in action research?
Can ethical and moral codes be strictly prescribed and adhered to as a
matter of administrative procedure such as getting a consent form
signed by the respondent? Shouldn't they be an inseparable part, a
guiding principle that underlies the overall approach to research and
action? By teasing them out and enlisting them, are we not assuming
that all research and action can be made ethically and morally right by

Editorial 525
adhering to a set of 'codes' ? Moral and ethical concerns need to be in-
tegral to the conceptualisation of the research itself.
The paper by Murthy and Vasan explores young men's ideas of
what constitute 'sex'; the meanings attached to the term; and the acts
and practices associated with it. Since sexuality is a fluid concept and
it varies across social groups, they are specifically interested in seeing
if there are differences between young men from urban and peri-urban
areas and mapping these differences. The paper is based on data gath-
ered from two locations (Bangalore, in Karnataka; and Nagar in
Maharashtra). Apart from identifying similarities and dissimilarities
between the two groups of young men, as other studies have shown,
their data once again reiterate that some of the core elements in the
construction of masculinity include a concern with 'body building'
and semen preservation, sexual initiation through commercial sex,
and relying on pornographic and erotic materials for sexual informa-
tion. Another feature that was common to the two groups, perhaps a
more recent trend, is the nature of premarital sexual relationships be-
tween boys and girls and the differential perceptions of the partners.
Boys show preference for short-term liaisons with girls without 'emo-
tional involvement' and certainly without a commitment towards
marriage. This is a radical departure from the traditional notions of
'romance' as well as from what is portrayed through popular films.
Can such a move towards an 'anti-hero' be analysed in terms of young
people's attempts to embrace modernity with its underlying emphasis
on consumption and a preoccupation with self-fulfilment of desires
and pleasures? The data presented also challenges the tendency to ste-
reotype urban youth as opposed to others as having liberal sexual
views. The peri-urban men were found to be more 'liberal' in their
views with regard to premarital sex and multi-partner sexual relation-
ships. The view that urban youth, in general, have a liberal attitude to
premarital sex is a stereotype based on what is observed among some
youth in public places; a large proportion of urban youth continue to
negotiate sexuality within traditional norms while experimenting
with opportunities offered by modernity in urban spaces.
Mahadevan, Siva Raju, Jayasree and Sandhya Rani attempt to de-
scribe a conceptual model to study the 'determinants of sexuality' by
defining a set of dependent and independent variables. The dependent
variable, 'sexual behaviour', is further categorised in the context of
marital status such as premarital, marital and extramarital sexual be-
haviour. Sexual restraint and abnormal sex are also viewed as

526 K. Anil Kumar
dependent variables in studying sexuality. There are several sets and
sub-sets of independent variables that influence each of the above cat-
egories of sexual behaviour. Though this article acknowledges the
broader meaning of the term sexuality, it largely ignores the current
debates on sexuality and confines itself to the determinants of sexual
behaviour. A conceptual model is presented that guides the discussion
in the article. This can be used to examine the effect of individual and
set(s) of factors on sexual behaviour and also on the implications of
such behaviour. The article also illustrates the practice of narrowing
down 'sexuality' to 'sexual behaviour', even when the larger meaning
of sexuality and the variety of contextual factors that shape sexuality
are recognised. Thus, the article throws important questions like:
What should be (or should there be) an operational definition of sexu-
ality in sexuality research and what should determine the nature of
such definitions? What should determine the methodology in sexual-
ity research? Are there a set of 'appropriate' methods in sexuality re-
search?
In the subsequent article on 'Womanhood and Spirituality', Nayar
widens the scope of sexuality as concept in the sense that the article
views expressions of spirituality as a part of sexuality. The author uti-
lises narrations from mythology, to some extent history, and the mod-
ern feminist discourses to analyse the different forms of spirituality
and its relation to culture. One focus is on the changes that have oc-
curred in expressions of sexuality over time. Placed primarily in the
Indian context, the article also tries to trace the travel of individual
women through the path of spirituality in a lifespan perspective. It
shows, through an analysis of information from various sources, that
spirituality has different meanings, to people from varying contexts;
such meanings may range from possession to transcendence. The arti-
cle concludes with an acknowledgement of spirituality among men,
and notes that the paths, expressions and attributes to spirituality are
differentiated by gender. One major implication for sexuality research
that this article raises (though not explicitly stated) is how the con-
cept, construction and differentiations in spirituality can be addressed
in (mainstream) sexuality research?
IV
Many a times, the sole focus or one of the major areas of investigation
in sexuality research is the pattern of sexual behaviour. Sexual behav-
iour studies in India are pretty large in number. This number has

Editorial 527
increased in recent years predominantly in the milieu of augmented
trepidations about HIV/AIDS and other reproductive health issues.
Such investigations may be categorised based on the geographical
area covered, the sample size, the nature of the studied groups, the is-
sues included in the research, and the methodology adopted. In addi-
tion, it is noteworthy that in a number of instances, the major concern
of the studies on sexual behaviour is not sexual behaviour itself; rather
the implications and consequences and ways to intervene to alleviate
certain preventable aspects are the main aspects of the investigation.
Not that sexual behaviour studies should not focus on other issues; but
it is to be kept in mind that the actual focus of the research would de-
termine how sexuality is visualised and how sexual behaviour is as-
sumed to be related to sexual outcomes and also how in depth the
behaviours are deliberated.
In terms of geographical coverage, sexual behaviour studies may
cover rural areas, urban areas, metropolitan areas, a few villages, one or
more states, an entire nation, or nations. The size of the sample may
also range widely: the size may be small as in some cases of qualitative
studies or may be a few hundreds as in small-scale studies. In a few in-
stances, the sample covered is quite large allowing considerable extent
of generalisations. Studies may also focus on males, females, both
sexes, the general population, or specific groups like adolescents and
youth, students, non-students, female and male sex workers, truck driv-
ers, drug users, or other groups like the disabled or those with
HIV/AIDS. The methodology used may be quantitative, qualitative, or
a combination of both. Not only do studies diverge in terms of the
methodological approaches, but they also differ considerably in rigour.
It is also worthwhile to examine how the term 'sexuality' is concep-
tualised in the studies on sexual behaviour. There are studies on sexuality
that seek also (along with other objectives) to conceptualise sexuality
using theoretical discussions and empirical observations from the study
settings. On the other hand, there are other studies where sexual behav-
iour is given only a peripheral analysis and the major focus lies in the im-
plications and consequences of behavioural patterns. Yet another group
is the knowledge, attitude and practice studies of sexual behaviour. Since
there can be a variety of reasons and concerns in studying sexual behav-
iour (including those mentioned above), the aspects covered in such stud-
ies vary widely and would depend on the understanding of the concept of
sexuality, the group(s) studied, and the concerns of the researcher, espe-
cially in terms of implications. Some recent comprehensive reviews of

528 K. Anil Kumar
sexual behaviour studies reveal that although these studies provide gen-
eral information on different aspects, there are serious methodological
limitations and call for rigorous studies of communities and of various
age groups in different parts of the country (Chandiramani, Kapadia,
Khanna and Misra, 2002; Jeejebhoy 1996; Khanna, Gurbaxani and
Sengupta, 2002). The three articles (articles 5 to 7) based on sexual be-
haviour studies, included in this volume, also share some of the charac-
teristics mentioned above.
The article by Somayajulu studies sexual behaviour with a prime
focus on the implications of sexual behaviour patterns for HIV/AIDS.
The article, thus, analyses the sexual behaviour of males from differ-
ent age groups in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It uses qualitative re-
search methods like focus group discussions and in depth interviews
to explore the sexual behaviour pattern of male students in the state
and men involved in fishing activity in both rural and urban areas.
Using structured interview schedules, the study also collected data on
sexual behaviour from adult males aged 18 years and above. A total of
10 focus group discussions were carried out and a sample of 2300
adult males were covered. The study found that awareness about con-
doms was higher among students as compared to both fishermen and
other adult males. Among both students and fishermen, sex with girl-
friends and sex workers was common, with the fishermen having a
higher extent of sexual involvement with sex workers. Lack of knowl-
edge and lack of sexual satisfaction were reported by fishermen as
reasons for not using condoms. Condom usage was less among stu-
dents primarily because they believed that it was not relevant as many
of them had sex with the same partner. Male having sex with male is
high among students, particularly among those staying in hostels. The
survey among adult males showed that the extent of premarital and
extramarital sex was higher among rural males. Awareness about
AIDS was low in rural areas as compared to urban areas. The article
reiterates the need to sensitise these groups about the HIV/AIDS risk
they carry in the context of high risk sexual behaviour — with multi-
ple partners, including commercial sex workers (CSWs). Except for
the finding of higher premarital and extramarital sex in rural areas, the
other results have been observed in studies conducted elsewhere. The
lower level of condom use in the situation of higher degree of sexual
behaviour surely calls for urgent interventions.
Despite the fact that young people are recognised as a high risk
group, there are only few studies directed at some of the specific

Editorial 529
groups within this category, adolescent sex workers (ASWs) being
one of them. The next article, by Krishnakumari, focuses on the sex-
ual behaviour of ASWs in the state of Kerala, a demographically and
socially advanced state. Using observation, focus group discussion,
key informant interviews and informal discussions, the study identi-
fied 825 adolescents in the age group 14-18 years who were involved
in the sex trade in three major cities of the state. Out of them 300 were
selected for studying sexual behaviour pattern and the reasons leading
to an early introduction to sexual life among them. As one would ex-
pect, these adolescents come from lower socioeconomic status — 55
per cent of them live in streets. Familial factors, economic instability,
early marriage and individual-level factors were largely responsible
for the children to get initiated into an early sex life and into sex trade.
Age at the first sexual encounter was low and the ASWs are engaged
in high risk behaviour to a great extent. A combination of economic
need, demands of clients and a feeling of being an outcaste compel
them to continue in the trade. Lack of knowledge about STD and
AIDS and a further lower level of condom use characterise the ASWs.
Reproductive morbidity is very high among them; frequent engage-
ment in high risk behaviour and low level of knowledge puts them in a
very difficult situation. The findings of this study obviously requires
urgent attention both in order to reduce the number of children engag-
ing in sex trade and to improve the situation of those who are currently
engaged in sex trade
While the article by Somayajulu focused on students, fishermen and
other adults in selected areas of Andhra Pradesh, the article by Jayasree
and Parvathy examines sexual behaviour and reproductive health risk
among CSWs in Tirupati, the biggest pilgrim centre in Andhra Pradesh,
and perhaps in India. With the help of a non-governmental organisation
(NGO) working with the CSWs in the area, 200 sex workers were se-
lected for the study. Focus group discussions were utilised to prepare a
structured interview schedule. The findings showed poverty and related
economic burden along with marital dissolutions as the major reasons
for selecting this profession. Lack of education and skills, exploitation
by brokers and the police and the continuing economic necessities char-
acterise their life. The study also found a very high extent of STD prev-
alence and a largely high level of awareness about STD and AIDS. The
article highlights the need to safeguard their rights through networking
and intervention programmes. Use of condoms was relatively high due
to the NGO intervention. At the same time the prevalence of STDs and

530 K. Anil Kumar
other reproductive health problems are also very high. In this situation,
the article calls for innovative information, education and communica-
tion strategies to reduce the incidence of reproductive health problems
among the CSWs.
V
The last article in this issue underlines the need to translate research
into action. This article, by Verma, Mahendra, Pulerwitz, Barker, Van
Dam and Flessenkaemper, addresses this issue by focusing on a rela-
tively little explored area by sexuality research in India: masculinity
and gender norms. The absence of scientific information on the con-
struction of gender identity and its influence on perceptions and atti-
tudes are highlighted here. This operations research was carried out in
three slums of Mumbai, in three stages — formative research, pilot in-
tervention, and evaluation. This article presents findings from the first
two stages. The formative research phase used qualitative methods to
explore the construction of masculinity with an aim to identify possible
strategies to influence masculinity and gender norms. The second
phase implemented a set of intervention activities developed by the par-
ticipants in the first phase. The objective of the intervention was to de-
construct certain prevailing constructs of masculinity and to promote
equitable gender attitudes and behaviour. The experiences during this
phase showed that through the process of owning, sharing and relation-
ship building, it is possible to modify the construction of sexuality of
young men thus helping to inculcate more gender equitable attitudes.
The eight papers in the forthcoming volume would focus on
mainly two aspects: the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour related
to reproductive and sexual health and their implications, and certain
emerging trends and issues in sexuality research in India.
K. Anil Kumar
Guest Editor
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Editorial 531
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THE INDIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, volume 65, issue 4, October 2004