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Sexuality Education is A Must

pendidikan kesproIf there is no sexuality education from an Islamic perspective, it is possible that Muslims, particularly the younger generation, will be negatively influenced by a misunderstanding of sexuality, and will be more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections and reject Islamic values.

Sexuality is an integral part of human culture and life. Sexuality is not only related to reproduction, but it has also been influenced by human customs, religions, arts, moralities, and laws. Nowadays, the world and people’s ways of life have changed. In our current global situation, almost all information is available to everyone on the Internet. This situation is not limited to developed countries, such as the United States, but also occurs in the developing countries, including many countries where the majority of the population is Muslim.

On the Internet, people spread a dominant or global culture that sometimes reflects values different from the Internet users’. For example, the idea of sexual liberation valued in some cultures is displayed in information and depictions that are so direct and explicit that there are no adequate sensor systems for children. Therefore, although most Muslims reject explicit talk about sexuality, they cannot avoid the curiosity their children have about sexuality. Also, because sex is natural, children try to fulfill their curiosities by seeking information about sex and sexuality on the Internet. As a result, if Islamic scholars do not offer reliable, accessible information sources, children and adolescents will turn to more readily available sources that are often inconsistent with Islamic beliefs.

Because of this free flow of information, Muslim scholars need to develop Islamic teachings about sexuality, teachings that make clear the differences between Islamic and Western values relating to sexuality. It is a challenge to preserve the integrity of the Islamic community’s values and religious perspectives on sexuality; however, the values and norms of the community can influence the sexual health and sexual behavior of community members. If there is no sexuality education from an Islamic perspective, it is possible that Muslims, particularly the younger generation, will be negatively influenced by a misunderstanding of sexuality, and will be more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections or reject Islamic values. There is some evidence that formal sexuality education can change behavior, delaying or reducing sexual activity and use contraception for students. People who are against extra-marital sex will have good protection against the possibility of generating STI/HIV and unwanted pregnancy.

Sexuality education is more than a study of human sexuality in biology or the social sciences. The aims of sexuality education are not only to provide information about sexuality, but also to encourage certain types of skills, attitudes, dispositions, behaviors, and critical reflections on personal experiences. Sexuality education also should be based on values. Values, according to Halstead and Reiss, can include the cultural beliefs of every religion. The main purpose of sexuality education is not just to prevent the negative consequences of early sexual activity as many people think, but rather to emphasize the need for factual information and a broad perspective on sexual behavior, and an attempt to treat human sexuality as one important part of total personality, to avoid unhealthy sexuality, premature and unprotected sexual intercourse, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, date rape, and to promote a positive view of sexuality. Being sex positive doesn’t mean that you’re positive you want to have sex—it means you have what is perceived as a healthy attitude toward your sexuality.

According to the Sexuality Information Education Council of the United States (SIECUS, 2004) Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade, there are six concepts that must be considered in designing a quality comprehensive sexuality education program, namely human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. Furthermore, SIECUS (2004) offers three main criteria on which comprehensive sexuality education programs should be evaluated: sexuality-related content, skill building strategies, and teaching strategies.

The content of sexuality education includes various topics related to human development, relationships, personal skill, sexual behavior, sexual health and society and culture. Skill building strategies can be promoted in sexuality education by examining (1) personal values, (2) influences on decisions, (3) perceived pregnancy and STD/HIV risks, (4) addressing peer norms, (5) increasing self-awareness and self-esteem, and (6) building general communication skills, assertiveness skills, conflict-management skills, decision skills, and planning/goal setting skills. The teaching strategies of sexuality education involve students and parents partaking in ground-rules, teacher lecture, large/small group discussion, student worksheets, journal/story writing, audiovisual materials, and parent/guardian involvement.

Sexuality education alone does not determine the success of educational efforts. Parents have a significant influence on children in terms of sexuality education. The information about human sexuality that children receive from their parents is usually learned indirectly through observation. From parents, children usually learn about values, attitudes, and sexual behavior appropriate to their cultures, beliefs, and genders. In the U.S. less than 15% of parents received sexuality education in junior high or high school (King & Lorusso, 1997). Based on such facts, most parents likely lack an understanding of issues relate to human sexuality. They are also not comfortable talking about human sexuality with their children. This uncomfortable situation prevents parents from having positive and open discussions concerning human sexuality with their children. The same situation also occurs in societies where Muslims are the majority, such as Indonesia. Indonesia does not have sexuality education in school. Many Indonesians learn about sexuality from the media rather than from their families or educational/religious institutions.

In general, Islamic culture recognizes the power of sexual needs and desires. The subjects of sexuality are discussed in the Qur’an and in the Hadith. The discussion about sexual behaviors and sexual intimacy in Islam always relates to morality and marital and family life. Some texts regarding sexuality indicate that men and women have to be treated equally and have equal rights. For example, some verses in the Qur’an that mention sexuality include the following: “Your wife is as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for her”, “Live with your wife honorably”. There are some hadiths state that  “Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you”, “When one of you has sex with your wife, it is a rewarded act of charity [good deed].” The Companions were surprised and said, “But we do it purely out of our desire. How can it be counted as charity?” The Prophet replied, “If you had done it with a forbidden woman, it would have been counted as a sin, but if you do it in legitimacy, it is counted as charity”.

Based on these texts, Muslim couples are encouraged to enjoy sex equally. It means that sexual satisfaction in the Islamic view is necessary for both partners because the garment in this text is a symbol of comfort and also equality, a symbol in which the wife is a garment for the husband and the husband is a garment for the wife. In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that both the husband and wife have the same rights to enjoy and express their sexual desires, but with some limitations. The prophet Muhammad asserted that spouses should not divulge the secrets of their sex lives to another person nor describe the wife’s physical appearance to anyone. Islam also prohibits pre-marital and extra-marital sex because sex in Islam always relates to marriage, and extra-marital sex is perceived as hurtful. It means that Muslims cannot have sex with others when it will hurt the marriage partner. Therefore, faithfulness and loyalty in marriage are very important.

The Islamic tradition sees sex and sexuality positively, which is part of the Islamic teachings. Sex and sexuality are not against spirituality, but they are signs of God’s mercy and blessings to humanity. In the Qur’an Arroom/ 30: 21, it is mentioned that, “And one of Allah’s signs is that Allah created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and Allah put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect”.

Alimatul Qibtiyah
Aktivis perempuan dan peneliti masalah gender. Ketua Lembaga Penelitian dan Pengembangan 'Aisyiyah (LPPA) Pimpinan Pusat Aisyiyah. Komisioner Komnas Perempuan. Anggota Majelis Tarjih dan Tajdid PP Muhammadiyah. Dosen Fakultas Dakwah dan Komunikasi (FDK) UIN Sunan Kalijaga.

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