Speakers at an interactive session stressed the need to educate the youth on reproductive health education, to help them better understand themselves both physically and mentally. They termed illiteracy, poverty and social taboos as the major hurdles in educating youth about sexual and reproductive health.
The session, titled “Youth’s role and responsibility for sexual and reproductive health and rights: an Islamic perspective”, was organised by Rutgers World Population Fund (WPF) Pakistan at a local hotel on Wednesday. Students from various educational institutions and representatives from national and international organisations participated in the interactive session.
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Speaking on the occasion, Dr Khalid Zaheer, a renowned scholar, delivered a lecture on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Islam, in light of Quranic verses and Hadith. He explained the relationship between husband and wife, abortion, and illicit relationships, among others. Dr Zaheer said that teachings of the Quran clearly and completely explain relationships from all aspects; “however, all that is lacking is an in-depth understanding”.
He stressed the need to bridge the communication gap between parents and children. In Pakistan, a majority of parents are reluctant to discuss issues regarding sexual and reproductive health with their children and give them the impression that such discussion should be avoided, he said.
He said that while discussing sexual and reproductive health, parents should not be very strict or very liberal but should provide full opportunity to their children to ask as many questions as they can and should clear all their misconceptions so that they do not need to go elsewhere to satisfy their queries.
Youth undergoing physical changes and lacking information usually resort to the internet or friends, which are often misleading. Using the wrong platform to learn about the sexual and reproductive negatively affects their social, physical and psychological development, he added.
Responding to participants’ queries regarding abortion, Dr Zaheer said that if it is done during the first 120 days of pregnancy, then it is fine, any later and it is considered an attempted murder. He added that abortion should be done only if the life of mother is at risk.
On family planning, he said that birth control should not be done through “useless ways” but through Islamic ways. He said that extramarital sex is strictly prohibited in Islam and the religion does not allow having illicit relationships.
He stressed on the need to have a large number of religious scholars in the country to guide people, especially the youth, in the light of Islam. “There should be educational institutes where youth can go and get education on sexual and reproductive health, but not in a biased way,” he added.
Rutgers WPF Country Representative Qadeer Baig said that sexual and reproductive health has become a social taboo in Pakistan. He said that to learn about sexual and reproductive health is the right of our youth in order for them to live a better and healthy life. “By depriving them of this right, we are affecting them physically, socially and psychologically,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2011.