Khalida Niaz

Pakistan and rest of the world are observing the International Day of Education on January 24. The aim of observing this day is to highlight the efforts for promotion of education all over the world. IN addition to this, on this day, we also reiterate our commitment to remove obstacles in the way of education.

The day theme this year is changes in curriculum and education to welcome and strengthening educational revival.

For its part, Pakistan has introduced a uniform curriculum. At the same time, voices are being raised for other changes in the educational system. However, sex education is among some of those ignored aspects of educational system. Many experts believe that many people in this country cannot distinguish between obscenity and sex education. In this regard, TNN has spoken to some experts regarding inclusion of sex education in curriculum.

Children should be educated about sex

Anila Gul, who is a teacher at a Peshawar government school, said that children should be taught about sex in school. She said that it could be devastating for female, if something happens to her, which she is ignorant about.

“In the age of social media, females watch movies and drama that have all kind of stuff,” she said. However, she added, sometimes, these girls also end up applying the things they watch in TV and movies.

Ms Gul said that it would be dangerous to keep them ignorant and such education is only possible in schools.

She said that many girls even do not know even if someone is doing wrong to them. Ms Gul said that girls need to be taught at school about how appropriately respond if someone touches them.  “This way they will keep themselves secure through awareness and also protect their future generations,” she added.

Govt school peon rapes student

Earlier in November last year, a peon at a government school in Peshawar raped a seventh grade student. The family found out only when the girl became pregnant. In addition to this, in number of cases, children have been sexually abused in educational institutions and seminaries.

In 2019, a peon at Charsadda government school raped an eight years old, second grade student. Police later arrested the rapist.

In a similar incident, a Peshawar court sentenced a private school principal in Peshawar to 105 years in prison and fine of Rs 4 million for sexually abusing students and other women.

If at one hand, there are people like Anila Gul who are in favor of sex education; however, on the other hand, there are many, who are opposed to such a move. The opponents of sex education are of the view that it could negatively affect children minds.

Sex education can have a detrimental effect on children minds

Maria Saleem, another teacher said that sex education could be included in curriculum at college, if not a school level.

She said that sex education at school level will more interest in it by students which could have negatively affect the students. Ms Saleem said that in the age of social media, students will start searching about sex, once they are taught about in class. She said that there were huge amount of diverse type of content on social media and internet platforms.

Ms Saleem said that the rape and harassment cases have gone up because of many discussions around them. “More discussion created more curiosity among people,” she said.

Muhammad Ilyas, a resident of Orakzai district also agreed with the Ms Saleem. He said that instead of doing any good, sex education will do harm to students. “It will divert their attention and waste their precious time,” he added.

What the experts suggest

Imran Takkar, a child rights activist said that the number of child sexual abuse cases has risen sharply over past decade. He said that these rising cases were also causing worries among the parents. Mr Takkar said that it was education government responsibility to take steps regarding raising awareness among children.

He said that government and the education department include material in the curriculum in line with our religious and cultural norms that would enable the teachers to teach the children.

“Great care must be taken in including this material as it will be sensitive material and should not conflict with religion or our culture, ” he said.

Mr Takkar said that the inclusion of such material in the curriculum would create awareness among the children and would also reduce the number of cases.

He also called for taking all stakeholders onboard before including sex education related material in the curriculum.

On the other hand, Sahil, an NGO working for children’s rights, more than 12 children are sexually abused every day in Pakistan. According to Sahil’s statistics for 2020, a total of 2,960 cases of child sexual abuse were reported, which was four percent more than 2019.

According to these statistics, in 2020, eight children were sexually abused every day. These are incident reported in the media while the actual number may be higher than that.

The state of sex education in other countries

Belgian government is considered too liberal in terms of sex education. Even Belgian government approach regarding sex education is even bothersome for some European countries. The Belgian government has recently developed a website for 15-year-old boys and girls, but it is now recommended for seven-year-olds.

In China, sex education is not compulsory, though there is a growing need for it due to abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, sex education is India is no different than China. Besides children between the age of five 12 were subjected to abuse. On the other hand, Guardian recently revealed that India sex education system was one of the best in the world.

In Indonesia, sex education is considered an extracurricular activity, with parents showing complete ignorance or lack of interest. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the government, which seeks to make teachers in schools aware of this. On the other hand, voices are being raised for sex education in Indonesia.

In addition to this, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States and United Kingdom, sex education is compulsory. On the other hand, in Uganda, sex education is not discussed and recently, government rejected a proposal in this regard.

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