Researcher Sobia Ali Faisal wrote about an experiment she conducted, surveying 403 Muslims in Canada and the U.S. between the ages of 17 and 35: “More than half (221) reported they had engaged in sex. I did not ask for any particular time frame. I was simply asking if they had ever had sex. Of those 221, two-thirds (148) said they had done so before marriage.” It is obvious that sex is not just a subject you can push under the rug. Teenagers and young adults are curious, and because it’s the 21st century, getting answers to questions is as simple as a Google search.
In today’s sexual culture parents are, more often than not, avoiding the conversations. Especially in the Muslim community where sex and all of its trappings are still considered taboo talking points.
But in fact, sex and its many, many trappings find themselves at the center of a very heated debate — a debate big enough for a president.
At each of the presidential debates televised thus far, candidates have been asked where they stand on Planned Parenthood (PP). A question like this is two-fold because, not only is PP a haven of affordable healthcare for many women, it is a place where a lot of teenagers are getting their sexual education outside of schools and family circles. Sex education that — no matter how taboo it may be to learn, must be learned.
While many people believe that promiscuity is the cause for so many sex-based problems in this country, the truth is that sexual mis-education is the root that feeds the tree. Young people engaging in sex who don’t have reliable information will believe whatever they find on the Internet or hear on the television. These things are often inflated truths or just flat out lies.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are so important because many teenagers, girls especially, are not receiving the proper sexual education. Often when those teens become sexually active they cannot even manage the basic action of properly using protection. And instead of talking to someone about birth control, people are talking to each other about the most efficient ways to implement the “pull out” method.
Many people seem to have pre-conceived notions about what Planned Parenthood is; if you ask Donald Trump or Carly Fiorina or any of the other 612 Republicans running for president at the moment, what exactly it is that PP does, I would guess that they think it is a place run by evil women whose mission in life is to throw a never-ending abortion party.
This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Planned Parenthood offers a wide range of services, including but not limited to, “high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people, and [is] the nation’s largest provider of sex education” as stated on their website.
It is an organization intended to educate and help liberate both men and women. Of the many services they offer, 80 percent of their clients come in for help and education on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Other PP services include nearly 400,000 pap smears and 500,000 breast exams a year, almost 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections and of those 700,000 include HIV tests — all necessary and important testing to a woman’s health and well-being.
Out of all their services, only 3 percent of their health services include abortion services, which are completely legal.
Planned Parenthood is a safe place for young people who want to learn more about themselves and how their bodies work, and a place for them to go and learn in a safe environment without fear of judgement or retribution. It is as necessary to keep as hospitals or doctors offices; without it, millions of people each year would be without life-saving health services. Many women rely on Planned Parenthood for the medical help they need, either because they do not have a regular doctor, or they are uninsured.
An article published by the Roosevelt Institute also points out the necessity of Planned Parenthood from an economic viewpoint. According to the article, “The Guttmacher Institute has found that for every dollar invested in family planning about four are saved.” Now if you are wondering how a more than 100 percent return on investment is possible, there is a fairly simple and straightforward answer.
Pregnancy is expensive. Raising a child is even more expensive. Investing in family planning programs intended to educate people about practical decisions regarding their reproductive health, including but not limited to birth control, is not expensive. It is both inexpensive and incredibly smart. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler makes a great point that of those unplanned pregnancies in the situation where the mother and/or father cannot afford the cost of raising a child, “the cost burden shifts to the public sector for children who are born into poverty.”
On the surface, many might think that sex is a dirty word in Islam, but I think the problem goes deeper than that. Instead, I believe sex is a dirty word in many conservative Asian cultures, and as a result, many families have mixed up practices of faith and culture into one group without realizing that they are two different things.
It is necessary that we talk to our children about sex in a positive and empowering light. When sex is spoken about discreetly or as if it is a horrible sin, it condones the idea that sex is evil and knowing about it makes you “haram” or a sinner.
It is important to note that often in the Muslim community, sex is a taboo subject because sex before marriage is seen as a sin. But, nowhere in the Quran does it forbid the education of men and women; in fact, I would argue that the Quran encourages us to learn and be curious about the bodies that we were blessed with.
In the Quran, God discussed various aspects of sex and reproduction, as well as menstruation and even ejaculation. The Prophet Muhammad himself (PBUH) discussed and answered many questions regarding sex and the human body with his companions and followers.
The Quran has made it evident that knowledge is power, and in fact, I think it encourages the idea that women should be educated in all ways, including in the way that their body works and operates. Often, it is believed that women should not learn and discuss or even think about sex until they are married; this is a horrible and dangerous misconception.
Having sex on your wedding night for the first time and not knowing anything about intercourse, or how to properly use protection, is harmful and can be both scarring emotionally and physically for women who have no prior sexual experience or knowledge to learn from.
It is not only necessary that we start teaching young men and women about sexual and reproductive education, but it is also imperative to our future as a country. Teenagers who grow up with misconceptions and misinformation about sex soon become adults and then often their own children grow up uneducated.
It is a cycle and it needs to be broken now.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are necessary to a country like America because it provides an outlet for young Muslim girls, and girls and boys of all religions, to have a safe outlet where they can be informed and educated about what is happening to and in their own bodies.
Written by Tahmina Hassan
Image: Huffington Post