Youth Sexuality and Sex Education in the Arab World

Youth Sexuality and Sex Education in the Arab World

“Have you ever tried to have sex in Arabic?” Did that get your attention? It certainly grabbed mine, the opening line of a contribution from Tala Abu Rameh on [wherever]: an out of place journal’s blog. Now before you get the wrong impression, read a little further: “Let me rephrase that, have you ever thought about sex in Arabic in a non-derogatory manner? For the non-Arabic speakers amongst you, sex in Arabic is not something commonly talked about, discussed or even fathomed, unless you are a female walking down the streets of Cairo listening to the different variations of what random passerby want to do to you. So, sex in Arabic, not so hot.”1 Let’s talk about sex Tala’s assertion of the silence surrounding sex – “not commonly talked about, discussed or even fathomed” is one that is echoed in “Libido” – a recent video from a group of young Egyptians.2 In it they explore the personal and societal consequences of the taboo surrounding youth sexuality in Egypt, but their themes could equally apply to other Arab countries. The video follows Mazen, a young man coming of age. When he asks his parents about sex, they respond with admonishments of “shame (‘ayb) and forbidden (haram), and the information he receives from school is no more enlightening. This fictional example will be familiar to many, and is reflective of the cultural and religious sensitivities that play a central role in shaping young people’s sexual behaviour and understanding of their rights to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). In Arab society the only legitimate avenue for sexual and reproductive life is within the confines of marriage. There...