Despite censure, a small village in Pakistan is defying social norms. Tucked away in the ultra-conservative Sindh province, the village of Johi is doing something extraordinary and radical: they’re providing sex education classes for girls.
To a Westerner this notion may seem far from revolutionary, but it is a gigantic leap forward for Pakistan. In the Muslim nation of 180 million people, sex education is taboo — in some places it has even been outlawed. Women who expose their sexuality in the slightest and most harmless of ways can be sentenced to death.
The pioneers behind the movement are bravely looking forward, teaching girls what they feel is just and necessary. They have established the Village Shadabad Organization where sex education classes are taught to girls starting at age 8. Thus far, there are 700 girls enrolled in eight different schools. The topics range from changes in the female body, to what a women’s rights are, to how she can protect herself. The lessons are an addition to regularly taught classes.
From the teachers’ experience, sex education is vital knowledge these young girls are deprived of. When they begin to menstruate, for example, they are ashamed and think they are sick. Pakistani girls are largely uneducated about puberty and do not know when they will begin to menstruate. Furthermore, many girls get married without understanding the mechanics of sex.
The lessons are not only useful in educating the girls about the natural functions of their bodies, but they are also a means of teaching self-defense. The girls learn that they have a right to their bodies; they learn how to defend themselves if someone violates their personal space; they are taught that even if they are married, their husband cannot force them to engage in sex if they are not willing.
Surprisingly, most families in Johi support the implementation of sex education in the public school curriculum. Unfortunately, the movement is far from reaching a national arena. In fact, the government recently shifted in the opposite direction, forcing the elite Lahore Grammar School to eliminate sex education courses from its curriculum. Many people argue that sex education is a violation of Pakistan’s constitution and an obstruction to their religious beliefs. For now, sex education in Pakistan is still a fringe idea, but nonetheless, the idea demonstrates an outward display of government defiance and a step in the right direction for women.
– Samantha Scheetz