Since the tragedy that befell Zainab, the question of sex education in schools has come into play. Is it necessary to teach children about sex in a country like Pakistan? If parents are asked this question they are often not sure of what the correct response is. The reasons for this are plenty: religion, conservative society, appropriation of western culture and quite literally anything else you can throw into the mix. Parents these days feel that their children are already quite exposed to what is happening in the world and are asking the age long question, which leads to ‘the talk’, of how they came into this world. You can either be forward with your children, which entails breaking a lot of societal and religious barriers, or make up yet another story. My version of events was that children were dropped of by cranes to their parents.
Will educating children about sex actually help them from becoming another statistic? If sex education in Pakistan is introduced in all schools how will parents react? Some will argue that there is no definitive proof that sex education helps children from falling prey to sexual predators and simply speaking most parents are not comfortable with having ‘the talk’ with their own children, let alone have someone else have it. It all boils down to what parents want their kids to know depending on their upbringing, religion, societal pressures and some even think that children should not be told what sex is and that they will find out on their own, when the time is right.
Where there is only so much schools can do in this regard, some schools, have introduced measures to ensure children remain safe from predators. To this end, they hold seminars for their students so that they are able to tell when an advance being made towards them is friendly or unfriendly in nature. Making children understand what an ‘unfriendly’ advance must be difficult without having to broach the subject of sex, but some schools are doing all they can to teach their students how to differentiate between the two.
Upon speaking to Mrs. Yasmin Adil, a Branch Head at Lahore Grammar School, I was informed that parents are given brochures to help them recognize emotional, behavioral and physical signs of child abuse. She also informed me that children are taught to distinguish between good and bad touch through story time, circle time and video clips. Additionally, children are also taught to trust their instincts and to report anything that makes them uncomfortable. All staff members are trained to observe children and to report any signs of physical abuse at home as well as behavioural changes that occur in students.
In an Islamic country like Pakistan where the right and left ( politically) seldom meet, something as simple as sex education for teenagers will always remain up for debate. If a school does introduce sex education even as an optional class, likelihood is that there will be a dharna against it faster than you can spell sex education.