CAIRO – Though common in Western schools, sex education has been offered recently in a limited number of Pakistani girl schools, offering conservative young girls a better education on puberty, rights issues and self defense.
"We cannot close our eyes," Akbar Lashari, head of the Village Shadabad Organisation which runs eight schools in which 700 girls are enrolled, told The Guardian.
“[Sex is] a topic people don't want to talk about, but it's fact of our life."
Remaining as a taboo in Pakistan, few institutions provide organized sex education, and in some places it has been banned.
Recently, sex education has been offered recently by Lashari’s organization in Johi village, in poverty-stricken Sindh province, where most residents support the scheme.
The lessons, sponsored by BHP Billiton, an Australian mining company that operates a nearby gas plant, include educating girls who turn eight about how they will change during puberty.
Other lessons include teaching students about how to defend themselves from attacks as well as rights issues.
Sarah Baloch, a teacher at the school, said she hopes to help girls understand what growing up means.
"When girls start menstruating they think it is shameful … [they] don't tell their parents and think they have fallen sick," Baloch said.
At her classroom, Baloch holds aloft a flashcard which shows a girl stopping a man from touching her leg.
Others encourage girls to tell their parents or friends if someone is stalking them.
"My body is only mine and only I have the rights on it. If someone touches my private parts I'll bite or slap him in the face," Uzma Panhwar, 10, said.
The lessons also cover marriage.
"Our teacher has told us everything that we'll have to do when we get married. Now we've learned what we should do and what we should not," said Sajida Baloch, 16.
Many of Pakistan's most prominent schools, including the prestigious Beaconhouse school system, have been considering the type of sex education practiced in Johi.
"Girls feel shy to talk to their parents about sex," says Roohi Haq, director of studies at Beaconhouse, one of the largest private school networks in the world.
A Lahore-based doctor, Arshad Javed, has written three books on sex education and says he sells about 7,000 copies each year.
Yet, none of his books were demanded for school education.
Though sex education was founding new grounds in several Pakistani schools, the government forced elite Lahore grammar school to remove sex education from its curriculum recently.
"It is against our constitution and religion," announced Mirza Kashif Ali, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, which represents more than 152,000 institutions nationwide.
"And besides, what's the point of knowing about a thing you're not supposed to do? It should not be allowed at school level."
Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, the education minister for Sindh province, was shocked to hear of the lessons.
"Sex education for girls? How can they do that? That is not part of our curriculum, whether public or private," he said.
For Pakistani Ulema council, the lessons were acceptable as long as lessons are given according to Shari`ah laws to segregated girls.
"If the teachers are female, they can give such information to girls within the limits of sharia law," Tahir Ashrafi, who leads the Pakistan Ulema council, said.
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