Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Talking about Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors; A Cultural and Social Taboo in Afghanistan (Part 1)


Talking about Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors; A Cultural and Social Taboo in Afghanistan (Part 1)

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the cultural and social barriers that lead to ignorance of debating on sex sexual attitudes and behaviors among families and youths in Afghanistan. As per the latest survey of Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies on sexual attitudes and behaviors of Afghan youths, most Afghan teens and adolescents do not have information about the healthy sexual relationship.And, 90 percent of those interviewed in thesurvey said that there is a pressing need for sex education in Afghanistan. Although the new generation of Afghanistan, despite close and strict traditions, have been able to create occasions talking about various social and cultural topics to understand better their opposite sex’s characteristics before entering an official relationship – marriage life, still talking about sexual attitudes and behaviors in public and families remains as a cultural andsocial taboo in Afghanistan.
Recently, Afghan Institute for Strategic Studiespublished its latest survey entitled “Transition to Adulthood; Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors of Youth in Afghanistan.”The survey has been conducted in a conversation with 1,350 people aged 15 to 34 in 10 largest provinces of Afghanistan.Sediqa Bakhtiari, one of the researchers, articulates that in the survey, the attitude and sexual behavior of youth and adolescents after childhoodhave been examined.This study echoes that most Afghan youths do not have information about the healthy sexual relationship.In this survey, 36% of the interviewees had no information about AIDS, and only 20% were familiar with safe and healthy relationships.And, 90 percent of those interviewed in this study said that there is a pressing need for sex education in Afghanistan.
The research shows that ignoring the debate on sexual issues has led Afghan young people to go to other sources for obtaining information about sexual matters that do not provide the right information to them. For example, according to this study, 60 percent of Afghan youths use sexy content such as movies and photos that address their sexual instinct. The researchers of this survey argue that using such objects for tackling the sexual needs can have personal and social damage. Its personal damage includes imitation of patterns of misconception, depression,and frustration, mental disorders, and addiction to such content and social damages are encouraging the youth toward committing rape, violence, street harassment and, in some cases, avoidance of marriage.
Studies project that widespread rape, honor killings, sexual violence, and child abuse in Afghanistan are the malicious results of lack of information and public awareness about sexual attitudes and behaviors. According to Ruhollah Amin, a psychologist in Afghanistan, talking about sexual needs and issues has a very negative connotation in Afghan society. He argues that even among couples, talking about sexual relationship is interpreted as bad, embarrassing, and heinousand should be kept secret. In his opinion, this social and cultural censorship has become a self-censorship that causes disorders for a person, and finally, the consequences of such self-censorship rise in other ways that are inconsistent with the cultural and social norms of the society. For instance, jokes and poems that have sexual content and violence are indicative of such cultural censorship in the society. He emphasizes the need for a social and cultural campaign in Afghanistan regarding sexual attitudes and behaviorsso that individuals can become aware of their sexual needs legally as a human.
Lack of Sex Education at Afghan Schools
Afghanistan is a traditional country and its people are religious who strongly believe in the traditional Islamic and religious principles.The contents and subjects of school curriculum in Afghanistan are also designed based on these Islamic principles and traditional values of the people. In 2016, the city of Kabul witnessed apublic campaign that broke many of the taboos and traditions in the country.This campaign was specifically talking about sexual attitudes and behaviors of youths and the problems and inadequacies surrounding it in Afghanistan.Holding such public awareness programs are very pivotal and vital in this regard but not adequate. Because, first, such campaigns only take place out of schools by private organizations in Afghanistan. Second, these kinds of social and cultural public awareness programs occur in big cities of Afghanistan where far-reaching provinces are not witnessing such campaigns. Third, schools that are considered to be the main training centers for children don’t have any clear and specific programs regarding educating the students about their sexual attitudes and behaviors,unfortunately.
Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Women Affairs of Afghanistan’s statistics echo that violence against women has increased in recent years. For example, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s 2017 annual report shows that violence against women in Afghanistan has increased by 8.6%.The reportstates that 5575 cases of violence have been registered this year. This figure was 5132 last year.Of the total recorded violence, more than 1,500 cases of physical violence, more than 360 cases of sexual violence, more than 1,800 verbal and psychological violence, more than 1,100 cases of economic violence and remaining violence have been reported in response to behaviors that are traditionally (social traditions) are disgraceful.In the reported physical violence section, more than 1,200 cases of beatings, 10 incidents, 57 injuries, 45 forced labor and 234 deaths were included.The Independent Human Rights Commission says that the statistics do not show the full reality due to the extent of this problem, and many cases of violence against women are likely to remain hidden for reasons of custom and lack of security.
To be continued…

Hamid Bamik is a Graduate Student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis University of Missouri-Columbia, USA. He can be reached at hbqwf@mail.missouri.edu.

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