Aug 13, 2010

Sexuality Education Woes in Egypt

The talk about sexuality hardly ever surfaces in Egypt. Even when an article or a speech is given by an enlightened intellectual, waves of rejection and censure usually follow. Discussing sexuality usually stirs accusations of spreading vice and encouraging promiscuity. Consequently, the debate on sexuality education here is starkly lacking and flawed, just like the process of sex education itself.

The government and other religious and social institutions ignore basic human rights such as the right of information and the right to health when they fail to deliver comprehensive sexuality education information to the people, especially young people who are most vulnerable due to the sensitive changes they are going through.

Public education ignores sexuality information, except for a class on human reproduction during preparatory school and some skewed information on sexually transmitted infections. A lot of young people remember that awkward science class where the teacher was too embarrassed to effectively convey useful lessons on sexuality, or skipped the class altogether.

Civil society organizations have recently recognized the importance of delivering sexuality education programs to young people. Evidently, these programs only reach a very small segment of young people in Egypt, who make up about 40% of the total population. Apart from quantity, quality remains a major challenge. Educating young people on sexuality includes a wide array of topics, such as puberty changes; understanding the body and its functions; exploring identity; sexually transmitted infections, gender based violence; partner communication, etc. Sex Ed is often combined with life skills education to enhance young people’s ability to make right decisions about their lives and how to communicate these with partners.

Reality is unfortunately far from this. Instead of providing a positive approach to sexuality, it is often portrayed as an evil desire that needs to be controlled. Instead of promoting tolerance and understanding, it’s not uncommon to find Sex Ed programs that foster negative attitudes towards sexuality and gender. For example, gender equality is poorly delivered; premarital sex is a taboo; homosexuality is defined as a disease that afflicts young people; and safer sex practices are often omitted.

Without going too into too much detail, there is a litany of reasons behind this. Clearly, Sex Ed has a lot of prerequisites that must precede it such as teaching human rights, privacy, tolerance, and gender equality. 

Finally, sexuality is closely associated with people’s happiness and productivity. Providing comprehensive information regarding sexuality is a goal that must be achieved equally and effectively for a better nation.


  1. Thanks for this opening post. It might be interesting to hear about some of the civil society organizations that are providing information to the 40% and highlight their work. Do you think this education is mainly in Cairo or is it reaching other governorates?

    Best of luck and keep on writing!


  2. Thanks Eddie for stopping by.

    Like other things in Egypt, Cairo gets a lot of the attention. However, a lot of such programs have targeted other governorates including the program I'm currently managing.

    The government recently started a national adolescent health program though I'm highly skeptic of their techniques. A few CSOs have adopted the peer education model to educate youth on sexuality issues.

    It's worth noting though that most there programs use the term 'reproductive health' during their work to avoid resistance and stigmatization.

  3. hey there,

    u know what, i didnt attend our sexual reproductive class in school, i had sexual education by my mom and felt that it wasnt a topic to go through in school, but now i think its totally different, and u know what... when i was in kenya some folks told me that in some tribes in eastern africa there s sexual education about how to please your partner before marriage and that is a must!!! so i guess its not about third world countries or such but more about the conservative culture and miss use of religion...

    i like

  4. Thanks Noon for your comments.

    I know that delivering sexuality education in schools here is a major challenge. What I know is that sexuality education is a must, and it should be delivered gradually to adolescents. Before that even.

  5. I can completely imagine the shyness of Egypt teachers. However, the fact is if teachers are to shy to teach, then students will manage to learn by themselves, in whatever way.

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