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.
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 elicit 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.
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)
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.
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?