"Scream!" "Bite!" "Scratch really hard with your nails!"
Sex education is a given in a large majority of American classrooms, whether that involves an abstinence-only lesson plan or a more comprehensive and preventative curriculum. In the rural deserts of the Sindh province in Pakistan, however, almost no schools offer talks about sexual health, and in most places, it's banned. But a few select teachers in the village of Johi in Sindh say that most parents are in favor of their new initiative to launch sex ed classes — with an emphasis on women's public safety.
Over 700 young girls are currently enrolled across eight local schools, with their first introductions to sex ed occurring at age eight. The revolutionary classes cover topics like their changing bodies, marriage preparation, self protection, and women's rights. Before these lessons, some girls had concerns when they got their period, fearing they were ill because they'd never been taught about their bodies. Akbar Lashari, the head of the Village Shadabad Organisation implementing the sex education, told The Daily Times that, "It's a topic people don't want to talk about but it's a fact of our life."
Though considered a conservative Muslim village, Johi's sex education classes are tackling topics some Western countries don't yet, including spousal rape. Surrounded by drawings of girls defending themselves and covering topics like "bad touches" and what to do on your wedding night, the schoolgirls are beginning to absorb the information. According to The Daily Times, when one teacher asked what to do if a stranger grabbed at them, a chorus of girls responded "Scream!" "Bite!" "Scratch really hard with your nails!" It's not the widely disputed condom runs, oral sex tutorials, and aphrodisiac cooking classes of the U.S., but in Pakistan, it's innovation.
Parents in Johi are informed their daughters will be taking sex ed beforehand and teachers say they have faced no opposition from the village at large. While government-backed grammar schools in Pakistan would never dream to adopt such liberal classes, (they recently forced Lahore Grammar School to remove sex education from the classroom) as long as the classes remain sex-segregated and primarily theoretical, they will be allowed under Sharia law. The spread of such groundbreaking, protection-focused sex education could do wonders in a country where honor rapes and assault by the armed forces still goes unpunished.
Image via UK Department for International Development.