There are many people in our society who balk at the term ‘sex education’. Most of these people assume that sex education or ‘sex-ed’ teaches kids how to have sex which is absolutely incorrect.
If you are one of these people and have already started muttering things like,
“Iss mulk aur hamaray bachchon ka kiya hoga?”,
“Kia zamana aagaya hai”
or plan to share this blog on Facebook with the caption “Astaghfirullah!” please hear me out…
Future of sex-ed (www.futureofsexed.org) defines ex-ed as “the provision of information about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions regarding sex and their sexual health.”
However, sex is a word that if said out loud in Pakistan suddenly makes you of questionable character. And yet, the fact is that de-stigmatizing sex is important simply because it is an absolutely natural aspect of life. Sexual development needs to be treated as a natural part of human development because it is. Moreover, sex-ed can benefit not only children but the masses. This is because comprehensive sexual health education covers various topics such as information about puberty and reproduction, abstinence, contraception, relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity and sexual orientation.
The fact is that regardless of our personal moral compasses (which most Pakistanis feel they have to shove down everyone’s throats), there are people having sex out there and they need to know how to practice safe sex as opposed to being susceptible to various issues due to lack of knowledge. Sex-ed can also help people, especially the youth, understand more deeply the ramifications of having sex (beyond raging hormones and puppy love).
In addition, our society is wrought with issues such as male infertility, female barreness and so forth, which are incredibly taboo and generally misinterpreted in our culture and sex-ed can very well help combat this lack of information and misinformation, and save numerous lives and relationships.
And most importantly, we are all witness to the fact that sexual abuse is on the rise in Pakistan (althought whether the actual rate of abuse has increased or the number of reported cases has increased is still unclear). I personally am of the opinion that the more informed we are, the higher the probability will be of such cases decreasing. You might argue that people from more remote areas and smaller towns and villages will still be vulnerable but I disagree.
Look at the work the NGO Aahung is doing.
Look at the TV serial Udaari.
They both target/portray people from less-privileged echelons of society. Aahung has shown that sex-ed is NOT only for private institutions through its Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) programme and that it CAN be taught to everyone.
It is that important.
If you still don’t think that sex-ed can benefit our youth, here are some points I’ d like to bring to your attention:
- Sex-ed helps individuals avoid negative health consequences such as STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) which are on the rise in Pakistan. If not treated properly, these can even be fatal.
2. It promotes communication about sexuality and sexual health which is important because we spend our lives communicating with the people around us and we owe it to ourselves to be open and honest with ourselves and others.
3. It can help prevent people from having sex until they are ready. I have seen a lot of people make rash decisions because sex is such a controversial, taboo and misinformed aspect of our society.
4. It can help promote a better understanding of what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships. Healthy relationships require skills many of our young people are never taught – positive communication, conflict management and negotiating decisions around sexual activity – simply because sex is never spoken about (at least not with the people it SHOULD be discussed with, like informed adults/caretakers).
A lack of these skills can lead to unhealthy and even violent relationships among young poeple which may continue later in their lives as well. It can lead to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Sex-ed includes understanding and identifying healthy and unhealthy relationship patterns; effective ways to communicate relationship needs and manage conflict; and strategies to avoid or end an unhealthy relationship.
5. Comprehensive sexual health education teaches people how to understand, value and feel autonomy over their bodies which is not only the basics of puberty and development, but also instills in young people that they have the right to decide what behaviours they engage in and to say ‘No’ to unwanted sexual advances. Furthermore, sex education helps young people examine the forces that contribute to a positive or negative body image. Many individuals, especially young people, struggle a lot with body image and it is important to address this issue.
6. A sound education about sex teaches young people what constitutes sexual violence, that sexual violence is wrong, and how to find help if they have been assaulted – something I feel is crucial in Pakistan at this time.
7. Sex-ed encourages people to be respectful and accepting towards EVERYONE, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. The past few decades have seen huge steps in Pakistan towards equality for LGBTQ+ individuals. Yet, LGBTQ+ youth still face discrimination and harassment. Each one of us needs to be reminded to respect individuals despite our personal beliefs because this is one thing our society is seriously lacking in.
8. Believe it or not, sex-ed can help protect the academic success of students. Think about it – if a student is fighting with raging hormones or worse – some level of sexual abuse or trauma – it can affect his/her mental state and hence, academic success.
We may not want to open our eyes to the incidents and implications of unsafe sex, sexual abuse, fertility and impotency issues, but it is far better to be informed than have our heads in the sand like ostriches. Of one thing I am sure – sex-ed is the need of the hour, especially in developing countries with rampant sexual health issues like Pakistan.