The Women’s Organization on Rights to Health and the South Asian Awareness Network hosted an open discussion Wednesday night to explore the topic of sexual health education in South Asian countries.

The event “That’s Haram!: Sex Ed in South Asian Communities,” compared the teachings of sexual education in South Asian and American cultures, both of which have certain stigmas surrounding the issue.

First-year Medical student Sai Talluru said she thinks there are many similarities between sexual education in South Asian countries and the United States, one of the most common topics being abstinence.

“I think abstinence is definitely something that is implied or talked about (in sexual education), and it’s not always the best option,” Talluru said. “It’s just not as transparent of a conversation as you’d like, and I feel like people aren’t open about it and there’s a lot of shame.”

LSA junior Sumrah Jilani agreed sexual education in both South Asia and the United States is a difficult topic for educators. She said it is important to eliminate the stigma against sex education in these places so people will be able to have comfortable conversations about the issue.

“I think one of the biggest things we highlighted was a lot of the misconceptions that are out there,” Jilani said. “There’s such a big stigma associated with anything related to sex, and getting rid of that stigma and making it so that it’s not a super taboo topic, so that people are able to talk about it and learn about it in a healthy way and know what all of the risks are and consider all of the factors. I feel like that’s really important.”

LSA junior Liliana Pfeifer,  co-president of WORTH, an organization that promotes activism for women’s health rights,  said inclusivity should be emphasized when learning about sexual health. This would produce a more well-rounded sexual education.

“I learned the importance of a comprehensive sex education,” Pfeifer said. “Including genders, races, cultures and the LGBTQ community is very important, and making sure the people who are doing the sex educating are trained in that intersectional perspective.”

Participants also shared their own personal experiences with sex education in these countries. Talluru said she wishes her sexual education was more comprehensive.

“I had a very biology-focused sex ed. My own parents never really talked to me about sex ed,” Talluru said. “Definitely not comprehensive. Definitely would have liked to learn more growing up.”

Jilani said the multitude of perspectives present made the discussion more valuable.

“I think this discussion was really interesting because we got to kind of hear a lot of different perspectives,” Jilani said. “While a lot of people here were South Asian, they all grew up in different backgrounds and a lot of people had different experiences … There were also a few people here who weren’t South Asian but still were able to relate to a lot of the experiences or shed light on their own experiences as well.”

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