Sex education involves giving instructions about human sexuality and human sexual behavior including reproduction, reproductive health and rights, sexual anatomy, and sexual intercourse, among others. This education enables the youth to be aware of matters regarding their sexuality and to engage in informed and responsible sexual practices. It also helps them to understand how to handle various problems related to sexuality including masturbation, menstruation, sexually transmitted diseases, and irresponsible sex practices. This discussion looks at the state of sex education in the Middle East and the reasons why it is neglected. The roles of teachers and parents in imparting sex education are also discussed.
There is inadequate sex education in the Middle East. Most communities in Middle East are Muslims and sex is a taboo subject in Islam. In this region, there are taboos preventing the open discussion of sexual matters. The youth are not supposed to have sexual relationships before marriage. People from the Middle East feel that if they teach sex education to the youth, it will encourage them to engage in premarital sex. They think that sexual immorality will increase if the youth are taught how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.
They highly value the preservation of virginity until marriage. They also do not see the need for educating youths on matters of sex since they are not yet married and therefore are not expected to be sexually active (Ilkkaracan, 2008). However, sex education does not encourage premarital sex but discourages it as the youth will be well informed of the dangers of engaging in it. It also encourages them to have safe sex practices.
Traditionally, young girls in the Middle East were married off at an early age whereas today they get into marriage much later because they attend school. Therefore, in the traditional society there was no need to teach sex education because the youth were expected to learn about it when they got married. Sex education to the youth was considered a taboo subject. But today, the Muslim youth spend their puberty years while still single. During puberty, the youth tend to engage in sexual relationships, and the Muslims are not an exception. However, lack of adequate information about sex often puts these young people at a risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or getting unwanted pregnancies.
The youths should be taught about sexual and reproductive matters to enable them to make informed decisions about their sexuality. Failure to teach sex education leads to the youth finding out information about sexuality on their own and they often get misled. Therefore, they are at risk of getting unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The youth who are sexually active in the Middle East do not have sufficient knowledge on sexually transmitted diseases and ways of avoiding them. Thus, there is a need to have sex education programs in schools in order to reduce the cases of sexually transmitted infections (Mahdi, 2003).
Sex education is rarely incorporated in the school curriculum. Topics on sex education are skipped because the teachers feel embarrassed to teach them. In the Muslim culture, discussing sex openly is embarrassing. Teachers can teach this topic better if they teach the appropriate information to children of the appropriate age. The teachers should also teach sex education to students of the same gender to avoid embarrassment and to allow the students to actively participate in the discussions (Dejong, Shepard, Roudi-Fahimi and Ashford, 2007). Islamic schools do not include sex education in their curriculum. Therefore, parents take their children to these schools because they believe that they will detach them from the society, therefore they will not be exposed to sexual matters. However, children in Islamic schools can be influenced by the media and friends (Nazer, 1976).
Parents in the Middle East shy away from discussing sexual matters with their children. Shyness is part of the Islamic faith, but parents use it to justify the negligence of their role as the sex educators of their children. According to the Islamic faith, one is supposed to feel shy when doing something indecent or that is against the teachings of God. However, they use this excuse to avoid discussing sexual and reproductive health with their children. Some parents are also shy to talk to their daughters about menstruation.
Menstruation is seen as a shameful thing and the girls are not supposed to tell the men about it. Sex education should be taught by parents as they are best suited to handle such sensitive matters. When children are left to find out about sexual matters on their own or from friends, they might end up with misleading information that might corrupt them morally. Parents are the ones who can teach sex education properly as they will know what information is suitable for the age of their children. If sex education is not taught at home, the children will grow up without enough knowledge on this issue and will engage in injurious sexual practices. In this age, the society should not think that avoiding the subject of sex will shield the children from learning about it. This is because the children find out about sex at as very early age either from the media or friends, and these sources often mislead them.
Keeping the children in the dark about sexual matters makes them find out from friends because they will be afraid of asking their parents, lest they think of them as immoral. In schools sex education is rarely taught. The schools mostly encourage children to abstain from sex but do not give any other information. Therefore, parents should not rely on schools alone to educate their children on sexual matters (Reem, 2011).
The burden of teaching sex education should not be left to parents or teachers alone. Teaching sex education should be done by the parents, etchers, religious leaders, the family doctors and elder siblings. There is a need to incorporate sex education programs in schools and other institutions. Parents should also be taught on how to approach the topic of sex education when teaching their children. The media should also teach about sexuality and help to discard some notions that people from the Middle East have about sexual matters. There is also a wealth of information on the internet about sex and reproductive health. Governments in this region also need to pass policies that cater for the needs of the sexual reproductive health of the youth (Dejong, Shepard, Roudi-Fahimi and Ashford, 2007).
From the above discussion, it is clear that sex education is neglected in the Middle East, mainly because of the cultural customs upheld by the society which is mostly Muslim. However, sex education should be embraced in every country as it prepares children for future roles as responsible and informed adults. Teaching sex education is enlightening the children about their sexuality. It is not done to encouraged them to engage in sex, but if they decide to do it, then they will be well informed on how to go about it without exposing themselves to the danger of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or getting unwanted pregnancies.
DeJong, J., Shepard, B., Roudi-Fahimi, F. and Ashford, L. (2007). Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Middle East and North Africa. Web.
Ilkkaracan, P. (2008). Deconstructing sexuality in the Middle East: challenges and discourses. England: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Web.
Mahdi, A. A. (2003). Teen life in the Middle. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group. Web.
Nazer, I. R. (1976). Sex education in schools: proceedings of an Expert Group Meeting, IPPF Middle East & North Africa Region. Lebanon: International Planned Parenthood Federation, Middle East & North Africa Region. Web.
Reem, U. (2011). Parenting V: Why Parents need to Provide Sexual Education to their Kids. Web.