"What would it take for Pakistan to teach sex education?"
Comprehensive and continuous sex education in Pakistan is very important. As a developing country, Pakistan cannot take the risk of avoiding this subject matter.
Development in a country is a function of its social behaviour.
Sex education helps consolidate and affirm the right direction for a healthy society. Sex education is a lot more than awareness.
It is a subject which often targets teenagers and young adults. Even still, the guidelines provided to young adults are inadequate and sexist.
Some people consider teaching this subject matter to be very profane and immoral for children.
What would it take for Pakistan to teach sex education?
Prior to this question lies a more fundamental query. Can sex education be beneficial to the Pakistani culture and society?
Also, can sex education help build a better society? Or does it allow the conservative elements to counterargue?
DESIblitz explores the status of this subject matter, along with why effective sex education in Pakistan is vital.
Sex Education in Pakistan
Traditionally, there have been many questions related to this subject matter, but an answer is not always provided.
Sex education is taught at some education establishments like Beaconhouse in the larger cities.
The teaching of sex education normally starts in class three. Teachers and school educators use images, videos and books to explain sex education.
However, the subject needs to be addressed in a more widespread area reflecting people from all backgrounds. There also needs to be a clear distinction between what is fact and fiction.
Sex education and awareness are two very different areas. When it comes to sex education, there is no particular curriculum or guidelines in Pakistan.
Yet, that is not true for awareness. In fact, parents prefer a very discrete environment to raise sex awareness. Most parents do not often engage in sex awareness.
They would not settle for sex education for obvious reasons: their children will start dating which is immoral, pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy and so on.
Shy Parents and Avoidance
Before criticising parents, why do they themselves avoid participating in sex awareness?
This is especially true for many middle-class families. Schools, colleges, and even universities sympathise with this argument.
In an unconscious manner, it is the educational institutes that help with sex awareness.
Yet parents do not neglect their duty. They request the elder cousins or siblings of the child to help them understand sex.
Yet this still doesn’t answer the question.
Mr Jilani, a father of three children, explains:
“Children have a better bond with their elder cousins or siblings. This sort of crude but necessary subject needs to be discussed in a friendly and frank atmosphere.”
He continues to clarify why this is the case:
“Also we the parents were guided in the same manner. Our parents did not have to do that. It’s been like that forever.”
But why exactly is Mr Jilani not doing this himself? Because teaching his son about sex is his duty but in a passive way? Also what about his two daughters?
“Their mother is taking care of that.”
There is a sense of closeness that all parents in South Asia are very proud of.
They know that their child is closer to them than anyone else in the world. They believe that in the West people estrange their parents after they turn 18.
For them this is an achievement; to stay connected with their daughter or son at every point.
Sex education is better off with people with whom their child is more frank and friendly.
This argument is an actual norm. It shows the inability of parents to help raise a healthy child.
However, educational institutes are no better than the shy and conserved parents.
Sex Education in Educational Institutes
Regardless of their qualifications, a teacher would consider sex education a moral obligation.
A male teacher to guide male students and a female teacher for female students. It gets a little difficult in co-education school systems.
These so-called initiatives carry with them a fundamental flaw. Before this flaw is scrutinised, here’s what teachers have to say:
“What’s wrong with students being taught the sense of sexuality with their teachers? We’re professionals and like their parents. And we understand the psychology of students.
“Is it not the job of educational institutes to properly guide young adults? They don’t just come to schools or college to finish their academics. We want to see them as respected citizens.
“Students are better taught this way when a teacher helps guide them about sex. They get to know and understand the sexual preferences of both genders.
“Sex education or awareness will help students live a noble and humble life. They will not opt for adultery or pre-marital sex.”
These arguments are just the tip of the iceberg as there will be more arguments which more or less favour these statements.
There is no proper curriculum for sex education in almost every educational institute.
There are no qualified professionals who can communicate with children, teenagers, and adults. The concept of sex education still remains a stark taboo for Pakistani society.
It gets ignorant at its peak when this so-called sex education purposely forgets child-abuse.
Rape, consent, foreplay, sexual orientation, contraception, molestation, etc never even make it in the discussion.
The cases of child molestation and rape are linked with naïve exploitation. This exploitation is often the result of allowing children to be with elder relatives without parental supervision.
About 30% of children face sexual abuse by family members. About 40% face sexual abuse by more powerful children or elder relatives.
These are only the reported cases. Undocumented and unreported cases could have an alarming number. These figures can continue to grow if crucial steps are not taken right away.
What Exactly is Sex Education?
Before identifying sex education, it is necessary to know what sex education is not.
Sex education is not a pass for teenagers and children to learn new slang. It’s not going to disturb the so-called social balance in society.
Preventing sex education does not imply a morally balanced society.
One of the criteria of a balanced Pakistani society is not talking about sex. Only boys or men talk in private. They are free to use all kinds of slurs and slangs.
Also, sexual intercourse is permitted after marriage. Child molestation and abuse are non-existent according to many and rape is always the victim’s choice. That is the balanced society of Pakistan.
That is the assumed ignorant and predatory nature of the so-called balanced society.
Sex education does not allow children and teenagers to know the meanings of sexual slurs. In fact, learning something in a decent environment only reduces the impacts of slurs.
Sex education is not pornography.
Pornography in Pakistani society is sex. That’s one of the most easily understood explanations of sex education.
There are more inadequate and incoherent matters associated with sex education.
Mr Kamal, a father of three, states:
“It would be ill of our society if we allow our boys or girls to be open about their sexuality or sex. That’s just profane. It will destroy the decency of any household.”
He goes on to question the obscenity:
“Can you imagine your daughter talking to you about sex and her urges? Or is it possible for your son to tell his mother the same? It’s maddening!”
Sex education refers to the understanding of sexual relationships. It also helps educate and communicate the different sexes to know more about each other.
Sex education addresses the emotional and social state of both male and female sexes.
Sex education emerges as a challenge where a society both hesitates and frowns upon the topic of sex.
What will Mr. Kamal think of all this? Or Mr Jilani? Both of them are satisfied with the present nature of society with respect to sex education.
Parents, individuals, and educational institutes are parts of the problem. This sheer ignorance has been circling the Pakistani society for ages.
It has devoured innocent lives and has shattered so many other lives.
How can Sex Education Help?
Sex education is taught on various scales. It covers children, teenagers, and young adults.
There is no single curriculum that can help educate everything. In fact, sex education has to be revised from time to time.
Starting from children they have to understand the basic concept of sex/gender.
The definition of sex and gender is far from being definite but it cannot be left behind. At least the idea of gender and sex should be known firsthand.
Children must also be taught to recognise molestation.
If someone is speaking to them in an inappropriate manner or touching them, they need to tell their parents or guardians right away.
They should also be able to identify what crude behaviours are. For children knowing the basics of gender and crude behaviour is only the beginning.
With an extensive curriculum and more outlines, it can be done with more efficacy.
It becomes critically important for teenagers. As teenagers grow they face different hormonal changes.
They are developing not only a personality but also a physique. Both these issues have to be addressed in a decisive manner.
It is the duty of gender experts to communicate in a language that teenagers can easily understand. Codes and ethics of professionalism will never allow a gender expert to use slurs or crude language.
Therefore the job requires a thorough understanding of various personalities.
Bear in mind these tasks are important in developing a healthy generation. Leaving them to unqualified people or even teachers is not helpful.
It will leave so many ambiguities which later affect the lives of thousands of teenagers and children.
Sex education allows teenagers to understand many complexities about themselves such as:
- How to respond to sexual urges.
- The causes, effects, and development of sexual urges.
- Is it normal to like someone or have a crush on someone?
- To understand the concept of consent.
- To appreciate, understand, and respect boundaries.
- How to be in a healthy and meaningful relationship.
- The usage of contraceptive devices and birth control.
- Sexual misconduct, signs, and how to prevent it from happening.
- Exploring sexuality and how to appreciate and understand one’s sexuality.
The above-mentioned factors are just a few to name. Addressing each factor takes patience and time. It is the sole duty of gender experts to communicate and answer all queries without any hesitation.
Gender experts strongly rely on parents and guardians to cooperate and help children understand sex.
Furthermore, teenagers should also be encouraged to participate in both groups and on an individual basis. Young adults from time to time must be educated about these issues.
There’s more to sex education than just the children and teenagers.
Adults and especially parents should also be a part of sex education. To fully conform and accept the outcomes parents have to be on board.
Experts who provide sex education are aware of social impacts. For sex education to be fully understood parents cooperation is very important.
Parents should also encourage their children to question them about sex. It will take time for parents to cooperate but it needs to start as soon as possible.
It is usual for parents to hesitate when confronted with such questions. A child or teenager is very likely to question without any difficulty.
That is because they are asking out of the innocence of curiosity.
For parents, the answers will be easy, but it is the presentation that matters. For parents to be expressive and understanding in this matter they should seek the support of gender experts.
Shying, avoiding or frowning upon questions related to sex only cause problems. These problems can have long-lasting impacts on their children.
Furthermore, it is much better to seek professional help than to rely on relatives or close friends.
It is not easy for any parent to answer questions related to sex. But nor are these questions impossible or intolerable.
There are answers.
The attitude to confront these questions needs to be there.
If a parent scolds their child for asking about sex or foreplay, they’re only making the child feel guilty. It’s okay to ask. It’s normal to question everything.
But is it acceptable for parents to scold or even beat their children for asking?
That is obviously no sensible way of answering any question.
Sex education helps build the confidence parents require. They may not know this but it is the lack of confidence that has brewed this taboo.
Sooner or later a child has to learn about sex. Their bodies develop and they are bound to ask all sorts of questions.
A child might be attracted to a boy or girl or both. They might encounter sex offenders.
As the child grows up he or she needs to respect the opposite gender as well as their own. Without that, they will not be able to live a fulfilled and healthy life.
As a teenager, he or she will notice changes in their body. They will have strong urges and are likely to be attracted to another person.
To make sure that everyone gets to live a fulfilled life, they need to understand the concept of sex. Sex is not just sexual intercourse but is a sociobiological field.
This field needs both the medical and social expertise of professionals.
It is much better to entrust the future of children to professionals than friends or close relatives, especially in Pakistan.