10 reasons sex education has nothing to do with vulgarity

The only thing 'vulgar' about sex education is denying teenagers the right to education about sexual health.

Faraz Talat January 15, 2013
While it is truly comforting that Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif -- among many others -- is taking such lively interests in our students’ moral upbringing, he may have mistaken ‘sex education’ for ‘vulgarity’.

Here’s what he may be missing.

1) Sex education does not encourage illicit activities

Does having an airbag in your car make you feel like driving your Honda off a bridge? Is my plane more likely to crash if the cabin crew shows me a flight safety instructions video before take-off?

An examination of 73 studies on the subject has revealed that comprehensive sexual education does not make students more sexually active than they already are. It neither hastens one’s first sexual experience nor does it increase the frequency of sexual activity.

It’s only a moralist’s greatest fear, therefore, it has no scientific leg to stand on. These programs are designed strictly to educate, not titillate.

2) Somebody has to tell them

Let’s face it. Parents are not interested in bearing the awkwardness of gathering their sons and daughters at the family table, and giving them the dreaded ‘birds and bees’ talk.

Teenagers are left with two options: Learn about safe sex from a qualified teacher or learn from other neighbourhood kids who just happened to stumble upon some ‘information’ they weren’t supposed to know.

I strongly recommend the first option.

3) Its happening, whether you teach it or not

Our current approach to the problems related to sexual health, is that of an ostrich, refusing to discuss the matter and pretending that it makes the problems go away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s not an easy discussion but that doesn’t make it not worth discussing.

4) The human body isn’t ‘vulgar’

Your natural physical form isn’t sin turned flesh. Just as it’s important for us to learn about the functions of our brains, livers, hearts, stomachs and limbs, it is important to learn about the sexual organs and the possible disorders that may afflict them.

5) It helps prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

This is a no-brainer but its significance is repeatedly downplayed.

We teach young students the importance of washing their hands before eating and bathing regularly, avoiding mayonnaise that has been left out of the fridge for too long and getting vaccinated.

But we happily gamble with their sexual health, rolling the dice and hoping they’d learn the do’s and don’ts on their own somehow. The odds of that happening, regrettably, are too low for comfort.

In one study conducted in Faisalabad, nearly 80% of the STI patients had either never used condoms, or had not heard of them. The lack of use, or even knowledge, of the single most basic barrier available to the population for safe sex is alarming. It is living proof of the fact that we cannot rely on sheer chance to have this information disseminated to the public. Active steps must be taken.

6) It helps avoid unwanted pregnancies

Pregnancies among teenagers who are neither psychologically nor socially equipped to handle them can, and does, destroy lives.

In Pakistan, where termination of pregnancy is not legal except for very specific circumstances, accidental pregnancies translate into an additional problem of back-alley abortions. These involve extremely unsafe procedures that can cause permanent harm and even death.

In Pakistan, studies have revealed that as high as 18% of all maternal deaths are attributed to these abortions. A reduction in the commonness of teenage abortions could bring down the number of illegal abortions too.

7) Sexual imagery is everywhere, sex education isn’t

When one’s senses are constantly bombarded by the latest Bollywood item songs, sultry advertisements and suggestive jokes and stories, it can easily warp one’s understanding of the dynamics of a mature sexual relationship.

If not supplemented with proper education, the effects can be catastrophic. It is virtually impossible to eliminate this imagery from our lives but it is possible to add lessons on sexual health in class curriculum.

8) It encourages healthy discussion on sexual health

In a country where it’s taboo to talk about breast lumps or disorders of the reproductive cycle, it helps tremendously to provide the students a safe academic environment to share their concerns in.

We cannot outsource even the most basic information on sexual health to healthcare professionals, who are often already overwhelmed by the patient load. One doesn’t queue up outside the doctor’s office to learn about the benefits of hand-washing, therefore one doesn’t need to do that to learn about condoms either.

9) “Past generations survived without it. Can’t you?”

Older opponents of sexual education like to point out how they managed to learn about sex without the help of a teacher and so can the new generation.

I imagine people also got by without penicillin or know-how on disease prevention for the longest time, or we wouldn’t be here to discuss this matter today. But maybe the incident rate of unwanted pregnancies and diseases was higher and the quality of life lower?

10) Denying education is immoral

Sex education has been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies and curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The only thing here that can be definitively classified as ‘vulgar’, is denying our young people the opportunity to educate themselves about sexual health.
Faraz Talat

The writer is a doctor based in Rawalpindi and writes about current affairs and societal issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Samar | 10 years ago | Reply i've not read this article in detail and it does make sense. LHW (lady health social worker )? already working on this guidelines. my worries are slightly different, if we live in our defined Islamic way do we still need to follow this ? can we not have a good culture which mostly based on Islamic teaching ?.. indeed we are detracted from Islam as it become materialistic ..... it good to have a knowledge to avoid embarrassment in society rather then having a fear of our faith. don't mind me I'm a non Muslim according to Pakistani constitute (and we are Alhamdullah are OK..
sane | 10 years ago | Reply Sex is a reality since human existence. Why not there was sex education some hundred years before too. Rather say 50 years back this was not an issue. If not, then what problems occurred then? This is totally west propaganda (not a conspiracy theory) to which we are carried away without using our minds. They (west) want if they have no morals then the whole world should be like this specially Muslims.
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