Does Tajikistan Need Sex Education?

Robert Blake, then US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs attends the first day of school in Tajikistan. Many Ozodi readers believe sex education is imported from the West. Wikipedia image.

Robert Blake, then US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs attends the first day of school in Tajikistan. Many Tajiks believe sex education is imported from the West. Wikipedia image.

One of the last acts of Tajikistan's outgoing parliament was to pass a law including sex education lessons into the country's secondary school curriculum. The members of the lower house argued that the lessons will raise awareness among teenagers about sexually transmitted diseases and prevent unwanted pregnancies in the conservative Central Asian country.

The law, passed February 25, 2015, stipulates that Tajik schoolchildren should be taught sex education lessons in high schools or in out-of-class seminars. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection proposed the idea when making additions and ammendments to the Law On Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights. The ammendments also include the prohibition of abortion at the embryonic stage.

However, the idea of including sex education into secondary school curriculums has generated controversy in the mostly-Muslim country. On Ozodi, RFE/RL's Tajik service, Muslim and conservative commenters moved to condemn the initiative.

Many readers argued that sex education lessons will provoke Tajik teenagers to try out what they learned at school.

Ehsan wrote:

Ин кори дуруст нест. У нишон медиҳад, ки чихел дуруст зино кунед, то ин ки духтар ҳомиладор нашавад. Яъне дар мактаб меомузан, чихел ба духтар бирасед, то ин ки вай ҳомила дор нашавад. О магар мо тоҷикон мусалмон нестем? Магар мо духтари хона намегирем !? Магар мо мехохем, ки ҷавонони мо ба ҳаминкорҳо даст занан!? Ин ҷомеаи моро хароб мекунад. Хонаҳоро вайрон мекунад. Дар ҳамин озоди хонда будам, ки ҷавоне хоҳари худро барои бероҳгарди бо табар зада куштааст. Ва гуфт пушаймон нестам аз кори кардаам. Баъди ин қонуни парлумон, шояд инхел кушторҳо зиёд шаван. Рости гап сахт дилам барои миллатам месузад.

It is not correct… [sex education] will tell you how to fornicate so that the girl does not get pregnant… Are we Tajiks not Muslims? Don't we marry virgin girls!? Do we want our youth to behave like this? It will destroy our society and families. I read on Ozodi that a guy chopped his sister up with an axe for misbehaviour and said he did not regret his deed. After this law, maybe the number of murders will increase. Frankly speaking, I feel sorry for my nation.

A girl's virginity is certainly important to Tajik families. Last year, a group of ‘legal-medical experts’ from one of the country's regions lobbied a law that would make virginity testing of young girls compulsory to save the country from a series of social ills, chiefly marriages that end in divorce. The law did not make parliament.

Many readers of Ozodi contended that sex education is not necessary in Tajik schools as it will deprive people of national values and culture. Some argued that biology lessons cover general information on the human body, and families are responsible for the sexual education of young people.

A reader who called himself Karsak, said:

Дар асл ин боз як кадаме пеш рафтани ноболигон ба ифротгарои мешавад, зеро бештари мавзуъхои ин фанни навтаъсис барои мардуми мусулмонтабори мо шарму нозукона аст. Ин боз идеалогияи мардуми гарбро таргиб намудан аст. То кунун фахмиши хонандагон дар ин масъалаи чинси аз фанни биологияи одам то микдори зарури пайдо мегардад. Агар ба ин фан ба пурра шомил шаванд аз ахлоки чинси бенасиб монда танхо пахлухои манфии чинсиро тахкик менамоянд, ки ин боиси пайдоиши проблемахои навин мегардад.

Actually, it will be another step towards extremism for teenagers, as most of the topics included in this subject are shameful for the Muslim population of our country. It is the advocacy of Western ideologies. Currently, schoolchildren get the basic idea of sex education from Human Biology lessons. If they adopt this subject it will deprive us of our good sexual behavior and it will only address the negative sides of this behaviour, leading to other problems.

Some said they would not allow their daughters to attend the lessons.

Saihuja Abdurahmon wrote:

… ин барой мардуми мусалмон мовофик нест баъд мегуян ки ешоно намемонан духтархояшона ба дарс бираван аз ин пас манхам на мегузорам хохарам ба дарс биравад ин сатри духтаронро мебардорад

..It is not appropriate for Muslim people. Then [the government] will ask why mullahs do not allow their daughters to go to school. I would also not allow my sister go to school. It brings shame on girls.

Then there was a group of readers that claimed the parliament had sold out to foreign powers, taking grants to implement changes to the current law. They argue that MPs should work to generally develop the education sector — the worst in the former Soviet Union — and try to bring labour migrants back to the remittance-dependent country from Russia.

Garib, moreover, believes the government should act like a Western government in other respects if they want to bring Western values to Tajikistan.

He said:

хукумати мо пеш аз он ки халки точикро ба гарбгарои таблиг мекунанд бояд авал худашон мисли давлатхои аврупо президентиро на зийод аз 5 сол кунанд ки ин ба манфиати халку давлат мебошад хандаовар аст ки давлати мо гами халкашро неву бисйортар гами курсиро мехуранд

Before forcing Western values on Tajik people, our government should limit the presidential term limit to five years [currently seven and extended via dubious elections] for the sake of people. It is funny that our government thinks about its own position more than they think about the people.

A minority supported the idea of sex education for secondary school students, with some arguing that girls and boys should be taught the lesson in different classrooms.

But Rakhim Soliev, a Facebook user called on people to accept the lessons.

He reasoned:

На парламенте сидят люди имеющий диплома и голову. Вы слышали что ” Запретный плод сладок” так что молодежь должны знать что это. Это наша природа. Если парень или девушка имеет терпения и совесть то такими вещами заниматься не будут. Вы уже знаете что под полно все этим занимаются. Так что давайте смотреть на таки вещи нормально. Смените розовые очки.

People at the Parliament have diplomas and brains. You have heard that ‘forbidden fruit is sweet’, so young people need to know what it is. This is our nature. If a guy or girl has the patience and conscience, they will not engage in [fornication]. You already know that everybody does it underground. So let's look at these things in a normal way. Be realistic.

1 comment

  • Karen Bapst

    The parliament of Tajikistan should be praised for passing a law which will include sex education in the secondary school curriculum. It was once said that there is no sex in the USSR. The officially puritanical attitudes and lack of sex education in the Soviet Union fostered a situation in which abortion was widespread and the leading form of birth control and contributed to the rapid spread of HIV in former Soviet republics, especially Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia.
    While some of the predominantly Muslim people of Tajikistan may regard sex education as foreign and western, the reality is that sex is universal and that Tajikistan is not isolated. Technology and economic contacts, such as the large numbers of migrant workers who travel between Tajikistan and Russia, ensure the exposure to foreign ideas and foreign diseases. By giving young people the facts, sex education can help them to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Cultural concessions can be made, and girls and boys can be taught in separate classrooms. The important thing is that such education takes place.
    Karen Bapst, RN

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