The reality is that young Muslims are becoming sexually active and embarking upon lifelong sexual journeys without even basic knowledge about their bodies. The fact is that being sexually active is part of our religion, yet this complexity and knowledge is left out.
How are women meant to make informed consensual decisions while missing critical pieces of this complex puzzle? To be sexually active in the 21st century without understanding that sex is not supposed to leave you in pain, or without knowing what a pap smear is?
This is abhorrent, but it is not the fault of young women.
I felt overwhelmed with pain and anger after this realization. Islam is sex positive as a religion, within the bounds of marriage. The shame we feel in our communities due to cultural taboos hurts so many people, especially the women that I see myself and my loved ones reflected in. This is where the gap exists in our Ummah: basic health discourse is non-existent in most Muslim families.
As a community, we tend to ignore sexual health education until marriage, and then expect the couple to consummate their union immediately. By doing this, we ignore basic health and consent education. The shame I felt at ten is the shame that is perpetuated into adulthood, muzzling honest, knowledgeable discussions among friends, and the dissemination of sexual health education in communities. It leaves our women hurt, couples confused, and the community vulnerable to situations where women can be abused falsely in the name of Islam.
Education is a tool we cherish as Muslims, but we do not always use it to address issues that make us uncomfortable. Sex is inevitable for most, which makes early sex education a must. Sexual health education does not lead to zina. This myth needs to be dismantled. Our community needs to see more peer educators – with bodies and skins like theirs – addressing these topics, so that we do not feel ashamed of our bodies, as we do now.
Today, many Muslim women submit to non-consenual sex believing that sex is a requirement of them when that is not the case. Our girls need to be able to defend themselves and feel dignified in their feelings and choices. Many women are complicit in perpetuating this cultural shame. The Quran is a beautiful book that can guide the discussions we have with youth in our community. I’ve included resources below to help start these necessary conversations.