The debate of sex education, or sex-ed, in Pakistan has been around for a while. In the Western world, sex-ed is a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Pakistan, as a developing world country, has yet to make this inclusion in its curriculum, extending knowledge to students about the human body, its sexual needs, desires and control.
In Pakistani private schools, usually at the start of 6th grade, girls are taught about the process of menstruation through seminars held inside the schools’ vicinities – these talks are usually improvised by sanitary pad companies such as Always, Whisper etc.
Of course, boys are not part of the endeavor altogether – however, they do see their counterpart classmates enter the classrooms with khaki bags, which are directly stuffed into the girls’ bags as soon as they take their seats.
What does Sex-Ed include?
Pakistan is a country with one of the largest populations that consists of youth. And with the ease and access to sexual content and knowledge, it is naive to think that teenagers will not and do not try to educate themselves on sex. It is pertinent to add here that the literacy rate of Pakistan is exceptionally low, which means a large chunk of young students, are as emotionally active as the literate ones, and seldom get their share of opportunities.
Sex-ed is a vast subject, which instructs the students about human sexuality; emotional relationships and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, safe sex and birth control.
America, currently, votes 94% in favor of sexual education to be taught in High Schools.
Does Pakistan really need Sexual Education?
Be it a village or a posh society in a metropolitan city, if you think that teenagers are not getting involved in physical relationships and sexual activities, you’ve turned a blind eye for the worse. Varying in liberal values, people who wish to engage in sexual activity, do so comfortably, be it outside their comfortable homes’ vicinity, empty houses, rented apartments, cars parked in dark alleys, on the rooftops and backstairs of apartments, dark sheesha/hookah cafes, internet cafes and even in schools, the youth of Pakistan is undeniably sexually active.
Since sex is a natural biological process that those who wish to partake in will continue to do so, should not the youth at least be taught about sex? Shouldn’t they know about the dos and the don’ts about safe sex and sexual hygiene?
According to NCBI: “We estimate that 890,000 induced abortions are performed annually in Pakistan, and estimate an annual abortion rate of 29 per 1,000 women aged 15-49. The abortion rate is found to be higher in provinces where contraceptive use is lower and where unwanted childbearing is higher.“
The key figure to notice in the above stated quote is the age of 15. Most of these abortions are carried out through the parents’ consent as their teenage daughters had engaged in sexual activity without taking precautionary methods – which, would not have happened had they been taught about the probability and possibility of pregnancy through unsafe sex. This is where Sexual Education steps in.
It is also very important to add here that mostly, in the cases of honor killing in Pakistan, the girl has been caught during sexual activity or because of the knowledge of the act. Sexual education also teaches girls about their body being their own property, and that no one has a right over it.
What Do Schools and Ulemas Think About Sex-Education in Pakistan?
A government school in the Johi Village of Sindh is openly teaching their female students about sexual education. Around 700 girls are enrolled in eight local schools run by the Village Shadabad Organisation. Their sex education lessons — starting at age eight — covers changes in their bodies, what their rights are and how to protect themselves.
“We cannot close our eyes,” said Akbar Lashari, head of the organisation. “It’s a topic people don’t want to talk about but it’s fact of our life.”
“We tell them their husband can’t have sex with them if they are not willing,” Lashari said.
“When girls start menstruating they think it is shameful and don’t tell their parents and think they have fallen sick,” said a teacher named Sarah Baloch.
“My body is only mine and only I have the rights on it. If someone touches my private parts I’ll bite or slap him in the face,” a ten-year-old student named Uzma Panhwar had said.
Top-tier schools of Pakistan such as the Beaconhouse School System have been contemplating the initiative of openly teaching sexual education, but still, they are caught in a double mind. “Girls feel shy to talk to their parents about sex,” said Roohi Haq, director of studies at Beaconhouse.
“It is against our constitution and religion,” said Mirza Kashif Ali, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, which says it represents more than 152,000 institutions across the country.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, the head of a moderate clerics’ alliance called Pakistan Ulema Council, when asked about the teaching of sexual education and its place in Islam, said, “If the teachers are female, they can give such information to girls in the limits of Sharia.“
What do you Think? Should Pakistani Schools Be Carrying Out Sexual Education Courses?
Our society is liberating itself from the stigma of natural biological processes, slowly but surely. Every citizen is entitled to their own respective opinion; some may agree, some may not, but the fact of the matter is Pakistan does need to inform its youth about underage sex and the important aspects to it, including STDs (sexually transmitted disease).
What do you think? Should our private and government schools take the initiative of accepting the need of Sexual Education? Should the Pakistani legislators be passing a notion on the issue? Or should we let things stay the way they are, and pray our youth manage to handle themselves and never fall prey to this calamity.
Article support from: Reuters.