Rural youths are more likely than their urban cousins to have pre-marital sex, according to a study released by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad here Saturday.
Overall, 15 percent men and four percent women reported engaging in pre-marital sex.
But "17 percent men in rural areas engaged in pre-marital sex compared to 10 percent in cities while four percent women in rural areas engaged in sex before marriage against two percent in cities," found the study conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The study found that youths in both urban and rural areas were engaging in unprotected sex, raising the need to provide sex education to adolescents in the country.
The study was conducted in six states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu – between 2006 and 2008, involving over 58,000 youths in the age group of 15-29 years.
"We have data from states which says that more than eight percent of young people below the age of 19 years have experimented with sex. In our changing society both boys and girls are definitely in need of information and counselling," Azad said after releasing the study.
Findings show that condoms use within pre-marital sexual relationship was almost non-existent and a majority of those engaging in pre-marital sex had multiple partners.
The study also found that detailed awareness of contraceptive methods was limited, particularly among sexually active young women.
"Awareness of HIV/AIDS was limited among sexually experienced youth with majority of women unaware of it," the study said.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who also attended the release function, said: "While awareness of contraceptive is high, its exact uses are shockingly low, with 70 percent of young women unaware of the fact that a condom can be used only once."
The study was carried out by the Population Council, Delhi and International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai.(IANS)