I live in a society where anything associated with s-e-x is still considered a taboo. It is true, that Lahore is home to a soft-porn industry. It is also true, that boys will be boys, and like teenage boys anywhere in the world, will continue their quest for online pornographic videos, or images, and hide copies of “Playboy” under their beds. Pakistani teenage girls like girls anywhere in the world, will continue discussing sex, as a topic, and their sexual fantasies with celebrities, or their crushes with their girlfriends. Young adults will crack sex-related jokes at a party, or over coffee. Yet, despite of all that, sex is still a topic which can not escape raised-eyebrows in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
It is primarily due to sex being a hushed topic, that sex education is a total no-no in our part of the world. Even basic biological concepts like Reproduction in our Science textbooks raise quite a few controversies. I remember, our Science textbook in Grade 8 had diagrams of reproductive organs, and detailed paragraphs on the reproduction cycle. The school administration took all of our books and stapled together some of the pages. No points for guessing “why”. But, was it effective? Ofcourse, not! It is really absurd, that our society continues to believe that 13 year-olds still think that storks carried them in blue and pink blankets, according to their genders. And that was a good seven years back! Fast forward to today, and nothing has really changed, except that now even 9-10 year olds know that the stork-brings-the-baby-myth is nothing but bullshit.
The controversy, as to whether sex education should be imparted, and implemented in our curriculum creates a wide gulf in our society. The conservatives use narrow and orthodox interpretations of Islamic teachings to support their arguments, and label the liberals as a product of “enlightened moderation”. Whereas, the liberals argue that their stance supports the struggle towards a progressive society, because this is not the age where we can stay shut about something as important as sex education. And, by sex education, I certainly do NOT mean to encourage sexual activities between teenagers. Unlike what the masses like to believe, sex education doesn’t mean to encourage teenagers to have sex, or how to have sex, or how to make their crushes horny, or the best position to have sex! On the other hand, the main objectives underlying the concept of sex education is how to have safe protected sex, and how to say “NO” , if somebody misuses your body for sexual pleasures.
Our society is such, where the best attempt to teach the masses about contraceptives comes in a form of a 5-7 minutes long advertisement, which looks more like a Bollywood song than a condom advertisement, and educates absolutely NOTHING about exactly what is a condom, and how is to be used, but hey, it has a catchy jingle! Also, this is the same society where teenage girls are given “get a used condom” on their scavenger hunt lists, but can’t talk about contraceptives and pills, because ssshhhh, it’s the Islamic Republic of Pakistan! Also, if you are amongst the segment of our society which likes to think that teenage pregnancies can’t ever happen in our part of the world, then surprise surprise, you’re wrong again! Though a lot less than what is happening in the West, cases of teenage pregnancies do take place here, as well. That can be as a product of forced-sex, i.e. rape, or even consensual sex amongst teenagers, or young adults outside the perimeters of marriage. Sex education can be used as a tool to preempt teenage pregnancies, and teach 13-14 year olds about abstinence, as well as contraceptives and, to control the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS, which again are nothing alien to our “Land of the Pure”.
Similarly, sexual abuse, and sex crimes are also issues that our society likes to think are alien to them. Guess what? It’s high time we open our eyes, and actually accept the morbid realities of the society we’re going to raise our generations in. I , myself, was surprised to find that 3-4 of my friends were sexually abused as kids. And, the statistics are of those people who openly talk about it . Many people don’t admit being sexually abused because they fear being judged by the society, and looked down upon by their peers. The sad truth is that their abusers/molesters were people close to them, i.e.: relatives, servants, qari sahibs, and drivers. Being sexually abused as kids, not only scar innocent childhoods, but also leaves loopholes in the development of their personalities as adults. Hence, it is extremely important to teach children how to prevent themselves and say “NO” to someone who abuses their body. Awareness amongst adults also needs to be instilled, since in most cases adults dismiss a child’s claim as absurd, or made-up. This doesn’t help to put an affirmative end to the abuse by the molester.
It is also unfair to continue blaming only our society for not imparting sex education, since even in countries like Australia, there have been attempts made by parents to stripe off sex education from the curriculum, though the courts decided against the parents. Also, some UNICEF made documentaries on sexual education for children, have been heavily criticized by the Western critics, as well. The two documentaries “Blue Pidgeon”, and “Music for Two” were documentaries made on graphically depicting intercourse between children, and the fantasies of a young girl who imagines herself in a marriage with a neighbour, respectively. The critics should realize that the increased sexual feelings in a child who hits puberty is completely natural, and if not for sex education, he/she won’t have anyone to discuss it with, and they might outcast themselves as feeling something which is “abnormal”, and in the process, try to isolate themselves from other kids their age. Some sort of authorized medium needs to be present to make them realize that what they are undergoing is completely normal, and natural.
It’s high time that we accept that sex education is something which is much needed in this age. We should encourage schools to implement sex education in their curriculum, and parents should be supportive enough to let their kid be taught about this tricky subject at school. Unlike the shunning of the administration in the Dawood Public School-Karachi case, where the parents and media raised an outcry over sex education being taught to girls, parents should be mature and sensible enough to know that this is something that their kid will find out eventually, and it’s much better if they find it out through some authorized mode. Also, parents need to stop shying away from matters like these. Finding excuses like “we’ll teach our kid whatever he/she needs to know about sex” is utter crap. Because , I don’t remember being taught about sex by my mother, and I am sure that same is the case with most of you, though there are exceptions everywhere. Anyhow, to conclude this , I think that sex education should be made a part of education for 12-13 year olds, whether the school is uni-sex, or a co-ed. Because, we’ve the responsibility of raising a generation, who knows a lot more than what we would like to think, and guidance and instruction is only going to benefit them.