Thursday, 7 January 2010

Poverty of Sex Education

Bikya Masr's Baher Ibrahim, just posted this well written and extremely interesting piece on Sex Education in Egypt- or the lack of it. Clearly the topic is taboo for many Egyptians. But can this not cause problems?

With figures such as Egypt's most senior Islamic cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, rejecting the possibility of sex education courses in the nation's classrooms and Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, vetoing the idea that children should be taught safe sex and how to avoid pregnancy and STDs on grounds that this kind of information should be on a need to know basis there seems to be little hope. Add to this the common view that "the bedroom is as a grave" -- no information should come out of it!

But why is sex taboo? Simply because in Arab societies, sex has always had bad connotations- being closely interlinked with honour and many believe that it is religiously wrong.

This would seem to be contradictory in a country where sexual harassment is rife on the streets- 83% of Egyptian women report being harassed despite Islamisation in all facets of life.  Indeed, basic education could very well cut the rates of abuse and rape as well as harassments. Victims would have a much clearer comprehension of the issues. Many women blame themselves for what has happened.

Kalam Kebeir (Serious Talk) -- presented by Heba Qotb, the first ever Arab sexologist and marriage counsellor -- took the nation by storm when it was launched. This is the first programme to discuss the issue of sexual education and culture in Egypt and the Arab world.

In an episode of her show, Qotb pointed out that ignorance of matters sexual and misconceptions relating to them are statistically rife in Egypt, with some 68 per cent of the population suffering from them. "A person grows up to be a blank page," she says. "Any misleading information indelibly marks them. I aim to provide the right kind of database, to give people the basic skill to tell right from wrong in the ethical and religious realm. But it is less ignorance than misconception that worries me, because it is usually taken for granted. On marrying a man will often apply such misconceptions to his wife, and when they don't match her he blames it on her ignorance -- the very same ignorance that he initially saw as a blessing as it is a mark of correct morality."

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