Part I, Written by By Saadia Haq of The Human Lens
This time in our collaboration we are discussing the unspeakable at length – yes the most tabooed subject among present day Muslim communities; sexual health education and rights.
Islamic countries are complicated really, they are. Just imagine being born in a society where women buying sanitary pads or a boy asking his father about the changes he’s experiencing as a teenager is deemed inappropriate and seriously frowned upon. Here being unmarried culturally stops Muslim youth from gaining sex education and young Muslims marrying too have no proper channel to learn the Islamic teachings on sexuality and intimacy between spouses.
Off course a lot of domestic abuse, patriarchal customs including marital rape of women get happily justified by numerous Muslims in the name of Islam. The present day Muslim male fear of ‘uncontrolled women’ has resulted into justification of male guardianship over women’s sexuality in the family as well as in Muslim laws, this is reflected in our present societies. As insecure male notions of female sexuality helped shape gender biased Muslims laws justified under Sharia and Sunnah.
I live in an Islamic country where a Muslim bride is told that Islam does not allow her to learn about the “wedding night” rituals and that she should stay silent while her husband performs the deed. When parents tell such dreadful bullcrap to daughters, I wonder how and from where we gain the courage to go ahead into a marriage whose founding bricks are on fear and silence. While back in that century when Islam’s Prophet was alive, Muslim men and women were never too shy to ask him questions including those related to private affairs such as sexual life, yet for today’s Muslim parents, sex is a dirty word.
The real problem of Muslim societies is their cultural upbringing, not their religious training because often they are brought up in a state of ignorance with regards to sex issues. And due to this, they aren’t comfortable with their own sexuality or its expression.
Another big problem faced by our communities is following blindly illiterate clerics promoting strange and gender insensitive ideologies on human sexuality. Most Muslims don’t try to research their own religion; they leave it to such so-called teachers. These sorta male clerics are responsible for limited and inaccurate teachings on sexuality topic in the name of Islam, big example is the anti-birth control laws and teachings, which allow men to enjoy unprotected sex but send their wives to illegal abortion clinics where many end up dying in the streets of Cairo, Lahore and Jakarta. For so-called Muslim clerics, birth control pill is haram, but a malnourished pregnant woman dying in unsafe abortion surgeries is ok!
There are other nonsenses’- little boys unaware that a certain “uncle” has not to play with his private parts and a first timer menstruating girl being shamed into silence and beaten. Recently in Pakistan, a secondary school’s biology curriculum got banned under pressure from Islamic hardliners who said, “The material in this book is about human reproduction and this can provoke sexual desire, this cannot be tolerated and we will allow any one to teach our children such material which is against our societal and religious beliefs.”
Really, Pakistan? And this is the society where we have a high prevalence of rape and sexual violence incidents. Recently I spoke to a young female counselor who works in a NGO run initiative; a help line for imparting sexual reproductive health information to youth where young boys and girls can make a call for discussing these sensitive issues. Twenty-eight years old, Rubina* told me obviously they get a lot of calls as young people can approach them without disturbing the usual cultural norms.
She further added the idea among Muslim parents is that sexuality is a taboo for girls because only the marred have right to speak about it and those unmarried have no rights to information. She lamented that Muslim communities are totally oblivious that girls are supposed to know about their genital organs and bodies for their future marriage and also know the sexual intimacy between couples.
Most Muslim parents and elders aren’t accurately informed about sexual rights and find it easy to close the topic with popular statements like “Islam doesn’t allow this and so on.”
While in reality, it’s the responsibility of the parents to have healthy discussions with both sons and daughters and to help them think critically about sexual health matters. To know more on that, wait for Papatia’s part ii which will shed some wonderful perils on this sensitive topic.
Part II, Written by By Papatia Feauxzar of Between Sisters, SVP
Our prophet sallallahu aleihi wassalam said, “The person to whom Allah gives a child must give him a nice name, must raise the child right, must teach the child when s/he reaches puberty, and must start making arrangements to wed his or her offspring. If the parent doesn’t plan for these things and that the child sins, the parent is responsible for the sin.”
Now, no one said to force your children in marriage at an early age or worse, make plans for them. What you need to do, is to instill the fear of Allah in them. If there is no Allah everything is possible in the bad way. And if there is Allah everything is possible in a good way. If they learn to fear Allah, they’ll not deviate from the right path insha’Allah. That said, no one is perfect and we also learn from our mistakes but it’s better not to learn the hard way.
Therefore, that's why we need to tell children who reach puberty about condoms and other methods to protect themselves from diseases and unwanted pregnancies if they decide to be sexually active. We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that teenagers can't be tamed to a specific mold. They are curious about sex and their private parts. And it's normal. Satisfying that curiosity with proper sexual education is what will stop the wondering and appease their mind. Keeping secrets is actually thrilling. However, when things are in broad day light and the light shone upon, they kinda loose their appeal. I can guarantee that being open about this taboo can change the dynamics. If children know what they risk by being sexually active, they will think twice before doing anything.
Trying to hide the truth about sexuality to them is not helping them. Au contraire, it worsens things. Why? Because many non-educated teenagers do the following which is not an exhaustive list:
- They learn about sexuality from their friends under unsupervised eyes
- They become secretive about their whereabouts and actions
- They start to be sexually active without the knowledge of their closed-minded or careless parents
- They get unwanted diseases (some for life), pregnancies, abortions, die, etc.
- They also don't know who to tell and how to report the abuse!
- They fear sexuality from a young age and view it as something dirty and unhealthy for the rest of their lives.
- They see sex as a chore; a needed chore for just reproduction instead of a fun relaxing activity
- They have no idea that sex is holy and an act of worship if done within halal boundaries. The proof? It is Sunnah to make duas before the act: “Bismillah, Allahumma jannibna-sh-shaitan, wa jannibi-sh-shaitan ma razaqtana (In the name of Allah, O Allah, keeps us away from the devil, and keep the devil away from what you may grant us).” Muslim
In conclusion, we all need to realized that sexual education is a needed subject to be discussed and taken seriously. Everyone should be aware of its importance and report, anonymously or not, to the abuse hotlines which are very common these days. Without sexual education, things look ugly for newlyweds and marriage; half our deen. It also endangers our children who can turn into abusers themselves. The cycle never ends and we will continue perversely that way. We must stop being prudish. We must not be vulgar either. We should just be moderate and show haya and tact when we discuss this sexual education. #SexEd
Note: ‘The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff’ is a copyrighted collaborative feature series bringing forward attention towards serious issues within the global Muslim communities. This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers, Papatia Feauxzar of Djarabi Kitabs Publishing and Saadia Haq of The Human Lens. We will be pleased to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you. Copyrights @2015 – 2016