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Saudi parents call for sex-ed in schools
There is 'no shame' in teaching children the facts of life, says supervisor of survey of 200 couples.
April 14, 2010 9:46 by Katherine Azmeh
Is Saudi society prepared for its children to be taught sex education? A study by female Saudi students at King Saud University’s Special Education Department recommends the teaching of sex education in the Kingdom’s public schools. The study, which surveyed 200 couples from the Eastern and Riyadh provinces, concluded that there is a need for sex education.
According to the study, 80 percent of participating parents, who were aged between 20 and 60, approve of the recommendation, while 43 percent say they are reluctant to share such information with their children themselves.
Meanwhile, 87 percent said they are concerned their children may be sexually harassed or abused. The study’s supervisor, Hania Merza, said sex education is a sensitive topic that is not new. “There is no shame in religion” and Islam encourages people to educate themselves, she added.
Merza added that sex education is related closely to a child’s well being and protects them from sexual abuse.
Mohammad Al-Sheddi, a member of the Shoura Council and the Human Rights Commission, agrees with Merza. He believes that children have a right to information that would protect them.
“The Shoura recently approved a protocol to protect children from being exploited for pornography. Children should be equipped with enough information that would allow them to differentiate between right and wrong, and detect whether they are being used or lured into a situation in which they may be abused,” he added.
Al-Sheddi said reserved and conservative people could misinterpret the term “sex education,” which could be interpreted as the actual relationship between a man and a woman. He, therefore, feels the subject should be taught in schools with some constraints.
He added that parents should raise awareness about the subject to their children in their first six years as this would be taken strictly as “information” and not in the sensual sense.
Al-Sheddi also said that the negativities of introducing the subject at the high school level outnumber the positive aspects.
Mohammad Al-Shaeea, a sociologist at Qassim University, defined sex education as “a dynamic social procedure that aims to provide the individual with information about sex that is consistent with religious values, society norms and correct behavior.” Al-Shaeea considers sex education as an essential part of basic social development.
Al-Shaeea said that a study of new students at Qassim University showed that 76.6 percent felt sex education is important. The approval, however, centered on what the Shariah mentions about sexual relations, marriage, and the mental and physical harms of bad sexual practices.
Laila Al-Ohaideb, a writer and the supervisor of the media unit at the Ministry of Education, said the contents of any sex education program should be clarified in order to get the wider society to accept it.
She added that Saudi society hardly accepts physical education and that sex education is bound to be rejected. She also agrees that although sex education will protect children from being abused, it should be ascertained whether the contents of such courses are suitable for their targeted groups.
“A project like this should involve several bodies and be supervised by psychiatrists, sociologists, educationists and Shariah scholars. It should be founded on strong religious grounds,” said Al-Ohaideb.
Although Al-Ohaideb does not object to sex education, she also does not approve of it. She added that there are many other genres of education — such as family education, education on how to deal with one’s families, parents, siblings and spouse, and physical education — that need to be introduced into the Kingdom’s schools before sex education.
She added that since some people advocate the teaching of sex education using underage marriage as an excuse, there is a need to set a minimum age for marriage.