Sexuality and Physical Education at Home and School

Written and Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

According to UNESCO (2009), the primary goal of sexuality education is to equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships in a world affected by HIV. In addition to learning about the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), children and young people also need to learn about the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse to recognise these when they occur, to protect themselves as far as possible and to identify and access available sources of support. Sensitising children, parents, teachers, police and local communities to the nature and extent of sexual violence, and giving permission to discuss it, are essential steps in tackling it. Sexuality education can provide an appropriate framework and context for educating students about sexual abuse.

This process of gaining knowledge about sexuality can come from both formal and informal sources focusing on the core set facts about sexuality. What should be included in the formal sex education is yet another area that needs more research and discussion.

Values permeate the whole process of sex education. But one must still question why should there be a discussion on this?

  • Because the diversity that exists in contemporary society makes a consensus on value impossible
  • Because some of the aims of sex education such as reduction in number of child abuse cases, teenage pregnancies, exposure to diseases etc, are of much importance to all societies
  • Because it can help individuals develop a non-judgmental approach towards diversity in society (not however towards rape and sexual abuse)

The process of value development begins at earliest childhood and goes throughout life and schools have a distinct role to play in this value system, including

  • Reflect the values of the society
  • To fill in the gaps in student knowledge and understanding including the knowledge of importance of values
  • Encourage pupils to choose a rational path through the variety of influence that can impinge on their experience e.g. they need help to make sense of diversity of sexual values which they have picked up from variety of sources and to be critically reflective

All of this however requires for the teachers to be critically reflective themselves.

There is a lack of consensus on sexual values, with religion being the major influence. Over the time however, sexuality has become more visible and much more widely accepted. When it comes to global sexuality education programs most often three approaches are observed

  1. The right based approach
  2. The morality approach
  3. The health approach

Schools are very often given freedom in sexuality education curricula.

  1. Right based approach (RBA):

This approach is based on human rights i.e. entitlements that belong to individuals despite their gender, race, religious orientation, ethnicity or socio-economic status. It is up to governments on how to proceed with these rights. RBA combines human rights, development and social activism to promote justice, equality and freedom. It also ensures gender sensitive and sex positive education for young people to be more empowered. Sexuality education can also address social inequality and exclusion.

  1. Morality based approach:

The idea of morality-based approach is to make children honest, responsible, compassionate and virtuous i.e. to turn students into mature adults. Sexuality education is tied to sexual morality and religion. Moral values are quite a sensitive issue e.g. presenting the idea of pre-marital sex in many religious countries.

  1. Health based approach:

Education that relates to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, rather than concentrating on sex prevention strategies. This approach allows individuals to face the facts and understand health challenges and outcomes of unsafe sex.

  1. Abstinence until marriage:

The main opposing approach to sexuality education is abstinence only. Not only does it encourage abstinence of sex until marriage but also avoids discussion on use of contraceptives and disease prevention.

In terms of practice and application in schools, Morality based approach seems to be the preferred type.

But how does individual make these choices?

Decision theory explains the factors that go into each decision that a person makes. Decisions may happen in a split second or over a matter of minutes, days, or years. When faced with several decisions, a person considers the benefits and risks of each choice. They make a comparison and decide that one choice is worth a substantial risk because of its substantial benefits. Weighing the benefits and risks of sexual activity is usually a longer and more complicated process. The sex education debate is much about decision theory. What information will enable young people to view risk and benefit in ways that will lead them to make good sexual decisions.

Sex and sex education although being ageless are a taboo topic in conservative societies like ours. It is true that even educated people like myself will not appreciate too much information for children at a younger age. But if one thinks about it closely there is a floodgate of information available online and It is perhaps better for students to learn basic physical and health education in schools.

Whether this education should come from homes or schools is still arguable, I personally think it has to come from both.

United Kingdom

Sex education in school

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is taught as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) under the National Curriculum in the UK.

SRE aims to:

  • recognise the importance of marriage and stable relationships in family life and raising children
  • provide information appropriate to each age group
  • involve parents as much as possible in their child’s sex education
  • reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Initially, parents had the right to withdraw their child from SRE classes up until the age of 19. But it has now become compulsory for children aged 15-16.

What will a child learn in sex education class in the UK

Children are taught about different aspects of sex at different ages, summarised in the following table

Age Guide to what is taught
ages 5-7 puberty, relationships and how to be safe
ages 7-11 puberty, relationships (including marriage, divorce, separation, same-sex and civil partnerships), managing emotions and dealing with negative pressures
ages 11-14 sexual activity, human reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, relationships
ages 14-16 body image and health, choices about sex, parenting skills and family life, separation and divorce

Faith schools are encouraged to devise SRE classes that reflect their faith’s values and ethical codes.

Sex education at home

Role of a parents in child’s education about sex and relationships is important. The teaching of these subjects in school is designed to complement the discussions parents have with a child at home.

Before discussion, parents should

  • Think about their own views on sex and what matters to them in relationships and family life.
  • Work out their own values and morals so that the children get clear, consistent messages about sex and relationships throughout childhood.

Sex education is most effective when it’s built up gradually over a number of years, so ignoring the subject will not help the children. Its helpful for a child to grow up with clarity about sex and relationships.

Tips for parents on talking to a child about sex and relationships:

  • Try to make discussion of sex a part of normal life not just a one-off talk (according to your norms and values).
  • Talk as naturally as possible to your child as this will encourage him or her to be more relaxed and open with you.
  • Answer any questions your child asks as clearly as you can so that he or she doesn’t become confused.
  • Listen carefully to what your child has to say and try to deal with any fears, concerns or misunderstandings as they arise.
  • Be truthful if you don’t know the answer to a question – try to find out the answer and then raise the topic again another day.
  • Don’t avoid a topic if you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about raising it. Consider introducing the subject via discussion of a TV programme or magazine article or what your child is learning in class.
  • Make sure any discussions are appropriate to the age of your child


Challenges of Sexuality Education

  1. Influence of parents on the education of their children
  2. Teaching social skills relevant to sexual behaviour in classroom settings requires special expertise in both design and delivery of the content


Pros of sex education:

A sexually educated person besides being educated and informed

  • Will have certain personal qualities e.g. self-assertion, personal security, and fairness etc
  • Will have certain attitude e.g. such as views on abortion, divorce, or homosexuality
  • Will have certain skill e.g. responsible decision making

So, I would like to conclude that with the amount of information available online and offline and rising occurrences of cases of child sexual abuse and sexual harassment, bans on abortion its becoming more and more important for proper research and debate in this field and for it to be taught from formal forms of education and therefore schools and education systems have a huge role to play in it.


  • Magoon, Kekla. Sex Education in Schools. Edina Minnesota: ABDO Publishing, 2010
  • Bella, V. L. 2014. Incorporating Sexuality Education in the Public-School System: Perceptions from the Philippines. University of Amsterdam, MSc International development studies, Amsterdam.
  • (30-1-2018)
  • Halstead, J. M. & Reiss, M. J. 2003. Values in sex education: from principles to practice. RoutledgerFalmer, London
  • 2009. International technical guidance on sexuality education. Paris: Unesco. Online at ExternalDocument/2009/20091210_international_guidance_sexuality_education_vol_2_en.pdf


Sexual Violence against Children

Written by: Huma Khan

Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

Zainab Ansari, a 7 year old child was on her way to Quran recitation classes in Kasur,
Pakistan, when she was abducted, raped, strangled and left in a dumpster. Her body was
discovered on the 9th January 2018. Autopsy has yielded that she was most likely held in captivity, where she was tortured. Criminal proceedings are underway and someone has yet to be charged for this. [update: The culprit has now been arrested]
Child sexual abuse is a horrific reality of the society we live in and Zainab’s case is just one of the few most recent reminders of this. Today’s podcast will focus on definitions, the extent of the problem, signs exhibited by children and further complications secondary to the abuse as well as a brief reflection on prevention and control strategies.
Child sexual has differing dynamics to those of adult sexual abuse in many parameters
ranging from disclosure differences to the symptoms exhibited. Lets begin by defining the problem. The World Health Organisation’s definition of child sexual abuse is:
 The involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend
 Is unable to give informed consent to
 For which the child is not developmentally prepared for
 Or that violates the laws or social taboos of a society
Sexual abuse in the case of minors is evidenced by any of the above activity between a child and an adult, or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of
responsibility, trust or power with the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other people. This may include but is not limited to activities like “intercourse, attempted intercourse, oral-genital contact, fondling of genitals directly or through clothing, exhibitionism or exposing children to adult sexual activity or pornography, and the use of the child for prostitution or pornography.”
It is a challenging task to find out the actual number of sexually victimized children due to the fact that the prevalence reported varies across studies and data sources. The WHO in 2002 estimated that 73 million boys and 150 million girls under the age of 18 years had
experienced various forms of sexual violence. A meta-analysis conducted in the year 2009 analysed 65 studies in 22 countries and estimated an “overall international figure.” The main findings of the study were:
 An estimated 7.9% of males and 19.7% of females universally faced sexual abuse
before the age of 18 years
 The highest prevalence rate of CSA was seen in Africa (34.4%)
 Europe, America, and Asia had prevalence rate of 9.2%, 10.1%, and 23.9%,
CSA has found to be associated with physical abuse at both younger and older ages and alone is accountable for about one per cent of the global burden of disease, but it is likely to be a risk factor for several other conditions like alcohol consumption, illegal drug usage, development of mental disorders, and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which when pooled, are accountable for over 20% of the global burden.

India has a huge problem of child sexual abuse, in fact, it is home to 19% of the world’s
children as well as home to the worlds largest number of abused children. For every
155th minute a child, less than 16 years is raped, for every 13th hour child under 10, and one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point of time. Studies propose that over 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year and it is believed that several cases go unreported. It is estimated by the government that 40% of India’s children are susceptible to threats like being homeless, trafficking, drug abuse, forced labour, and crime.

United Kingdom
It would be false to believe that the problem exists in poor and developing countries only.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is found across international borders as well delving deep within all socioeconomic boundaries.
 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused
 54,000 sexual offences against children recorded in 2015/6
 Over 90% of the abused children’s perpetrator was someone they knew
 Over 2900 children were identified as needing protection from sexual abuse in 2015

Risk factors
Risk factors have been identified, which can make children more vulnerable to abuse. These include:
1. Unaccompanied children
2. Children in foster or adopted care
3. Physically or mentally less abled children
4. Poverty
5. Armed conflict
6. Social isolation
7. Dysfunctional family life e.g. alcohol, drug dependency

Health consequences
The aftermath of child sexual abuse includes physical and mental complications. The
physical issues range from genital injury, genital discharge, bedwetting/soiling, anal
complaints (e.g. fissures, pain, bleeding), UTIs and STIs. Psychological and behavioural
issues can include behavioural regression, delayed developmental milestones, sleep
disturbances, depression, PTSD, poor self-esteem and/or inappropriate sexualised behaviours.
So what is the cause of the problem? Child sexual abuse is multi-dimensional in its cause and complexity, however, cultural and social norms supporting violence are a major issue. These can include the following:

a. Sexual violence being an acceptable way of punishment/power assertion
b. Sexual activity (including rape) being a marker of masculinity
c. Sex and sexuality being taboo as well as shameful for the victim, thus preventing
d. Perpetrators having had a history of longstanding sexual abuse
Prevention and control of child sexual abuse
Management of victims of sexual abuse is also, therefore, quite complex and
multidimensional. It is important to remember, however, that sexual abuse is preventable and there are a number of steps that can be taken to keeping children safe. On individual levels this includes giving safe spaces to children (online and offline), equipping adults with knowledge and understanding to take action and empowering children to speak out about sexual abuse.
For children already having a history of abuse, there needs to be adequate support. This
includes the treatment of physical injuries, STI treatment, HIV prophylaxis, long term
counselling and/or psycho-educational intervention. Similarly, the frontline health staff need training in order to pick up the signs of sexual abuse, ask about it in a non-threatening setting and be competent enough to carry out the basic investigations and treatment. Disclosure in children is a multi step process and often is not easy for them to narrate. The health and forensic services must therefore work hand in hand to allow for sensitive information to be gathered from the child.
Education is a key element of control and prevention of child sexual abuse. The learning is imperative for children and families. The children need to be taught in safe environments, which touching and other behaviours are inappropriate and who to report to. They need to be reassured and mentally equipped so that they have a safe person with whom they can communicate.
Implementation of laws and policies is another minefield, which has to be taken into
consideration. Control and prevention of abuse cannot work if the laws and policies are not in place, and if society as a whole does not believe in the legal enforceability of these.

1. Guidelines for medico-legal care for victims of sexual abuse. World Health
2. Changing social and cultural norms that support violence. World Health
3. Child sexual abuse. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. abuse-and- neglect/child-sexual-
4. Singh et al. An epidemiological overview of child sexual abuse. J Family Med Prim
Care 2014; 3(4): 430-435.
5. Wihbey J. Global prevalence of child sexual abuse. Journalist Resource. child-sexual- abuse.


Sexual Harrasment: Me too

Written and Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

The recent #metoo campaign against sexual harassment was an eye opening social campaign for me. Nearly 80% of the women in my friend list reached out to the world by saying they have been sexually harassed at work on in closely knit family and community setups. While a couple of my male friends showed their support not a single one of them said they had been affected by sexual harassment too. This shows that violence against women is worth all the feminist debates that ever existed.
What was also super inspirational about these young ladies in my friend list is that they have grown up to become stronger women and better people and are contributing towards several gender and world development orientated goals. Some of the stories narrated by my friends gave me Goosebumps. So here I take off my shoes, put my feet in the shoe of sexually harassed and assaulted women and scribble a poem in the first half of the article. In the next half I have tried to academically explain the issue of sexual harassment to inform myself and others about the topic.

I am sending you love, because me too

An old man I respected once cracked a dirty joke,
Day in and day out I received anonymous calls,
I ignored all of this and kept looking away,
Has any of this emotional abuse happened to you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Were you young and naïve playing alone in the wild?
Were you brave enough to stay out late in the dark?
In a family event full of people, did it happen to you?
‘The world is not a safe place’ do you now believe it’s true?
I am sending you love, because me too

How wise, and respected was your molester?
How filthy did you feel with every touch of that monster?
Did you dare protest or in silence choke back?
How guilty, how helpless, how shocked did it leave you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Did you come back home and throw those clothes away?
Did you have anyone to turn to and seek support?
Or were you clueless about how or where to report?
were you worried about how small they would make you feel?
I am sending you love, because me too

Did they ask you, ‘what were you wearing’?
Did they start the victim blaming?
‘You shouldn’t have been there on your own’ did they say?
There is no point in putting pebbles in the mud, stay away!
Is this what happened to you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Do you know of a local authority you could go to?
Or a national law that might support you?
any helpline, number your school or college shared with you?
Or did you survive those days without an idea of what to do?
I am sending you love, because me too

through it all, have you become a stronger person?
Are you worried for the future of your children?
Have you decided to take a stand and speak up?
do you believe in empowerment of men and women’?
I am sending you love because me too.

Sexual harassment is a serious social problem. The strategies most commonly used by women to cope with harassment range from avoiding or ignoring the harasser to reporting the incident.
There isn’t a single agreed upon definition for sexual harassment. Most researchers define it as “a psychological experience based on a sexually unwanted, offensive, and threatening behaviour at work”. Several authors have defined three types of sexual harassment,
Gender harassment
Unwanted sexual attention
Sexual coercion
Gender harassment (hostile, offensive, intimidating, and degrading verbal and nonverbal behaviour against women) is a type of subtle sexual harassment aimed at deterring women from transgressing male domains rather than being an expression of sexual attraction.
Unwanted sexual attention: Most evident types include verbal and nonverbal behaviour, such as persistent nonreciprocal requests for dates, letters, phone calls, deliberate touching, grabbing, sexual advances and propositions, and assault). This behaviour is perceived by the target as unwelcome, unreciprocated, and offensive acts of sexual interest.
Sexual coercion, also known as quid pro quo or sexual blackmail, is the most explicit and recognizable type of sexual harassment, where the harasser, a person in power, demands sexual favours from a subordinate worker in exchange for organizational rewards and benefits or threats of reprisal related to job prospects and conditions (e.g., job security and promotion)
Though both men and women may be exposed to sexual harassment, the literature on harassment is consistent in reporting that an overwhelming number of victims are women, and harassers are men. Thus, one out of every two to three women have experienced some type of sexual harassment or have been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour.
The strategies most frequently used by women to cope with harassment range from avoiding or ignoring the harasser to reporting the offence. Unfortunately, none of these strategies has proven to be clearly effective in combating harassment at work, nor in raising the confidence of workers (i.e., potential victims) regarding their expectations towards their current employers. Studies have shown that women who report incidents of harassment are often threatened with reprisals for reporting the incident or making it public. A further strategy employed by women in coping with sexual harassment is confronting the harasser. Some studies have found that active confrontation benefited victims by empowering women, and by helping them to expose social inequality. The tendency to respond negatively to any woman who attempt to draw limits as to the behaviours of men, particularly if these infringe traditional gender roles, is enshrined and perpetuated by the sexist ideology. A good example is a study where women who challenged traditional gender roles and undermined male authority were found to be negatively evaluated by men.
Sexism has a role to play in it. The fact that men and women are different and certain acts by men are acceptable because of their gender fuels the issue of harassment. In general, sexism is associated to attitudes legitimizing violence against women, and would explain the nexus between hostile sexism and blaming the victim. Myths of sexual harassment, including beliefs such as self-victimization, that women enjoy acts of violence, these acts are only committed by mentally deranged men, or that women exaggerate their reports are common to all women.

Impact of Sexual Violence:
The impact of sexual violence goes way beyond physical injuries e.g.
The world may not feel like a safe place anymore
You no longer trust others, you don’t even trust yourself
You may question your judgement, your self-worth and even your sanity
You may blame yourself for what happened or believe you are ‘dirty’ or ‘damaged goods’.
You may struggle with anxiety or depression.
It is worth remembering that you are experiencing a normal reaction to trauma. Dispelling the toxic victim blaming myths about sexual violence can help you start healing. Remember that you are not to be blamed for what happened to you and you can regain your sense of safety and trust.
Sexual assault especially rape victims should not be blamed as rape is a crime of opportunity. Rapists choose victims based on their vulnerability and not on how sexy they appear or how flirtatious they are.
Recovery from sexual trauma takes time and healing can be a very painful, but with the right strategies and support, you can move past the trauma, rebuild your sense of control and self-worth and even come out the other side feeling stronger and more resistant.

No matter how hard life is on you, speak up, seek help, heal and help others heal too


P.s. A big shout out to Peter Bickerton for reading the poem and encouraging its publication.

1. Could a woman asking a man for coffee be categorised a sexual harassment, specifically if the man is obliged to say yes to a lady?
2. Do men understand what rape does/means to a woman? Is it more than violence for them as it is for women?


Herrera, M. C., Herrera,A., Expósito, F. 2017. To confront versus not to confront: Women’s perception of sexual harassment. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context. In press