Sex education is a very controversial issue in Pakistan. You even say the word “sex” and the moral brigade will be on you like flies on a partially rotted dead body. You will hear all sorts of accusations, from people claiming that you are a RAW/CIA/Mossad agent to calling you anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan shill who wants to destroy the country. During all that outrage, however, we miss the genuine questions: what is sex education , and do we actually need it.

Let us start with the second question first: Does Pakistan really need sex education or what should really be called “Reproductive Health Education”. To illustrate my point, I’d much rather tell you the anecdotes I’ve heard from friends and people that have come to me for advice. I have had someone ask me what “You-terrace” was; which was a hilarious mispronunciation of the “Uterus” – except this person was in his late twenties and was married. I’ve had friends ask me about how condoms work despite having been sexually active for a while. Then there are the various questions about “Male Virility” and “Female Barrenness” that you keep hearing all the time. You just have to open one of the Sunday magazines in one of the Urdu newspapers or look at the wall chalking everywhere to see how these “posheeda amraaz” (hidden illnesses) are being treated.

This can actually be substantiated in data as well. Sexually transmitted diseases in Pakistan are at a constant rise. Worse yet, they go untreated because the patients don’t realize the severity until later. Pakistan has an abysmally low rate of contraception usage and a ridiculously high birth rate for a country our size. Sexual assault is common, so is domestic violence and then you have various complications you see in the labour rooms and gynaecology operation theatres that come out of ignorance.

So what exactly is the answer to that? Well, that’s where reproductive health education comes in. That is where children are taught about their bodies and how they work. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of sexuality are explained in a friendly way and children are encouraged to ask questions. Everything from secondary sexual characteristics to contraception is explained and they help the child make sense of what is going on with their bodies.