More than 90 percent of parents and teachers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia support the introduction of sex education in public schools, according to a new study by a female professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca.
Professor Amal Mohammed Banouna told Elaph news website that children between 3 and 8 years of age develop curiosity to know more about sexuality and tend to ask numerous questions to understand and explore themselves and the world around them. Some of the children’s questions, professor Banouna said, can be embarrassing to the elders.
“Since we are in an age of globalization, scientific openness, we find many problems related to sexuality, and this has prompted me to address the issue within an Islamic context that respects the biological nature of individuals,” Banouna told Elaph.
“I started to do my research on early childhood as an integral part of my master’s degree at Hull University in England.”
Banouna’s study was recognized at an education researchers’ conference in Britain and will be presented at an international early childhood education conference in Portugal this year.
“I wanted to understand the position of parents and teachers on offering early sex education to children between 3 and 8 years of age and how important such education would be to Saudi Arabia’s educational system,” Banouna said.
Banouna gathered the data for her research from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah through 500 questioners and interviews with parents, teachers and childhood education specialists.
According to her research, 47 percent of fathers find it difficult to answer their children’s questions related to sex and about 87 percent find it embarrassing to answer the questions and as a result they tend to ignore them.
In her research, Banouna recommended that both parents and teachers should be given training on how to deal with their children’s curiosity, especially when it comes to matters of sexuality.
Bannouna told Elaph that she did not face any problems while researching a topic that can be sensitive in the conservative kingdom. She said people tend to confuse sexual education with sexual culture.
In 2010, the Saudi-based Arab News published a report about a similar study that found 80 percent of Saudi parents approved of introducing sex education in schools.
The study found that 40 percent of Saudi fathers were reluctant to answer their children’s embarrassing questions.
Member of the Saudi Shoura Council and the Human Rights Commission Mohammed al-Sheddi then told Arab News that he believed that children should be equipped with necessary information to protect them against child abuse.
“The Shoura recently approved a protocol to protect children from being exploited for pornography. Children should be equipped with enough information that would allow them to differentiate between right and wrong, and detect whether they are being used or lured into a situation in which they may be abused,” Sheddi said.
He added ultra conservative individuals could misinterpret the term “sex education,” which he said should be offered at school within some limits.