Sexuality Education: A View from the Middle East, Proceedings of the International Conference on Sexual rights and Moral Panics held in Francisco, USA in June 2005.

There are over one billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 worldwide. The reproductive and sexual decisions these young people make today will affect the health and well-being of their countries and of their world for decades to come. People in the Middle East are as concerned about the provision of adequate sexual education for their youth as the rest of the world. Sexual health is influenced by most factors including sexual behavior, attitudes, socio-cultural mores and traditions and biological risk. In the Middle East, the cultural context impacts heavily on the concept of sexuality and sexuality education. Fears and panics regarding sexuality and sexuality education are felt, voiced and argued about as in other parts of the world. There has been a growing call in the region for a more appropriate approach to sexuality information and education for the youth. Many scientists, religious figures and policy planners all agree that we can overcome the stigma connected to discussion of sexuality by showing that Islam discusses sexuality openly. The controversy in the region regarding sexuality education stems from diverging opinions and stands on the issue; while some support sexuality education, others reject it, and still others support it but on certain conditions. Those in favor of sexuality education believe that it is a human right; individuals have the right to information and knowledge. Sexual education is necessary because it prevents youth from becoming prey to unfounded concepts about sexuality and from succumbing to unsafe behaviors directly affecting their health and well-being. While these supporters all agree that sexuality education starts at home, and that the school also has an important educational and informational role to play in providing the right information and knowledge to the youth, they are nevertheless aware that many ill-founded attitudes and traditions are standing in the way. Those supporting sexuality education assert that sexuality within marriage in Islam is acknowledged as needed, desired, legitimate, allowed, encouraged and rewarded. This offers a basis for a culturally sensitive approach for our region. Arguments opposing sexuality education stem from beliefs that greater knowledge on the subject would encourage promiscuity, perversity and depravation; others use religion as an argument to oppose sexual education, while again others base their argument on the socio-economic environmental prevailing in the region and maintain that sexuality education has low priority. The objective of the paper is to analyze these arguments and to demonstrate that knowledge does not encourage promiscuity, and that Islam, the religion of the majority in the region, discusses openly all matters pertaining to sexuality. People's health and well-being is correlated to the level of knowledge and information they have about their bodies, themselves and their feelings; this knowledge affects their practices and behaviors, thus fulfilling their human right to a safe and satisfying sexual life; sexuality education is thus essential for all.
Author(s): Hind Khattab  
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