The literature review covered academic sources that are pertinent to the study. Most of the sources were qualitative studies, some were quantitative studies, and others mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. The review addressed several themes, including the definition of sex education in the Muslim context, the benefits, and downsides of sex education in Islamic education, mandatory sex education in Islamic education, strategies for implementing sex education in Islamic education, and stakeholder participation in sex education in Islamic education. The review of the literature gave rise to two research gaps. First, there are limited studies on sex education in the Islamic education of Saudi Arabia. One reason is the lack of a sex education curriculum integrated into Islamic education in the country. Another reason is the prevailing taboo on open discussions of sexuality in the classroom setting. Given the benefits of sex education, it is imperative to explore the importance and manner of introducing sex education into Islamic education in Saudi Arabia. Second, there are also limited studies on sex education in higher education in the Islamic context, including in Saudi Arabia. Given reservations about sex education for children and adolescents, an avenue that could have sex education more acceptable is to integrate sex education into higher education. It is important to explore the place of sex education in higher education in Saudi Arabia, the scope of sex education in higher education, the role of stakeholders, and the implications of sex education in higher education on sex education for children and adolescents.
Keywords: sex education, Islamic education, higher education, Saudi Arabia
A review of the literature relevant to the on sex education in the context of Islam and Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Several themes emerged from the review.
Sex education in the context of Islam can be narrow or broad. A narrow definition treats sex education as the promotion of abstinence from sex until marriage (Razali et al., 2017, p. 15). A narrow notion of sex education shows poor results because it neglects the reality of premarital sex and the protective impact of information on safe sex, abortion, and gender empowerment (Razali et al., 2017; Carter, 2012). A broad notion is comprehensive sex education, which involves the delivery of age-appropriate, scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgmental information on sexuality and relationships, including sex, instinct, lust, and marriage, in a manner that aligns with Islamic values (Ashraah et al., 2013; Ihwani et al., 2018; Razali et al., 2017).
While the idea of sex education may be interpreted in various ways in various regions worldwide, Islam-dominated countries such as Saudi Arabia may have a different approach to the concept. It is to be understood that almost 98% of Saudi Arabian citizens are Muslims and thus are deep-rooted in their Muslim culture, especially when issues of sex and gender are in focus. According to Sham et al. (2020), sex education can be interpreted as the advocating of abstinence among teenagers, who occupy a huge percentage of students in higher education levels. Sham et al. (2020) explained that sex education is a way of enlightening students on the importance of avoiding sexual relationships until they are mature and old enough to engage in marriage.
Binti Abdullah et al. (2020) supported Shams et al. (2020) definition of sexual education and explained that while many students may lack the necessary knowledge concerning the effects of premarital sex, they end up assuming the roles of parents, thus limiting their ability to concentrate on their academic life. Binti Abdullah et al. (2020) explained that the damages that come with premarital sex are so severe that they limit students ability to achieve their life goals. Binti Abdullah et al. (2020) gave an example of young girls who end up getting pregnant and are forced to drop out of school, thus unable to achieve the necessary academic qualifications needed to achieve their life goals. Binti Abdullah et al. (2020) supported the definition of sex education to be an approach taken to educate the youth on ways they can abstain from sexual relationships. It is all about making students understand the adverse effects of engaging in sexual relationships at an early age and thus enhancing their need to keep their bodies safe.
Ismail et al. (2022) provided a deep perception of the concept of sex education. According to Ismail et al., sex education is about providing scientifically accurate details that are non-judgmental on the matters of sexuality. Ismail et al. (2022) argued that students do not only have to learn about the adverse effects of sexual relationships but also about the process, how to take care of their reproductive organs and why and when they can engage in sexual relationships. While Sham et al. (2020) based their definition on the moral side of the issue, Ihwani et al. (2018) supported the study by explaining that it is all about being open and not hiding the students important information concerning human sexuality. Students do not only have to perceive sex as something that will cause them harm but rather understand all the necessary facts about sexuality. Therefore, students can have adequate knowledge concerning human reproduction rather than only focusing on morality interpretation.
The literature shows the significant benefits of sex education. Sex education provides students with better knowledge of sexuality and reproductive health to help them make informed decisions (Razali et al., 2017). Interviews with that most as a means of enhancing their knowledge about sexuality, normalizing sexual and reproductive issues, and to sexuality issues (Rahmani et al., 2018). Children and adolescents require proper information because they are vulnerable to negative behaviors without proper guidance at the right age (Alquaiz et al., 2013). However, quality information on sexuality does not exist in the Islamic education of Saudi Arabia. A survey of and secondary students showed that 54 percent had limited knowledge about sexual health (Alquaiz et al., 2013). A survey among Saudi female adolescent students showed that they obtain information on sexuality from peers (42%), domestic helpers (17.3%), and parents (15.8%), and teachers showed negative attitudes towards questions about sexual topics (Alquaiz et al., 2012). Sex education can address the knowledge gap on the sexuality of young people in Saudi Arabia.
Sham et al. (2020) continued to explore the benefits of promoting sex education in higher schools in Saud Arabia. In their study conducted in 2020, most women participants perceived sex education as an approach necessary to equip them with sufficient knowledge of sexuality rather than as a program meant to make them avoid sexual relationships (Alomari et al., 2020). Women are therefore able to have adequate knowledge on how to take care of their sexuality which limits the occurrence of some chronic infections related to affecting the reproductive organs (Rahmani et al., 2018). We cannot shy away from the fact that there are diseases that specifically affect the reproductive organs, and some of them are not necessarily caused by engaging in sexual intercourse (Rahmani et al., 2018). In another study, Razali et al. (2017) identified that women with no prior knowledge of their sexuality had difficulties managing their menstruation periods, negatively impacting their ability to concentrate on their academics. Some women could not understand how they are supposed to conduct themselves while going through such an inevitable biological process. This becomes a huge shame to the education system and society at large. Sex education is, therefore, necessary to ensure youths have adequate knowledge to take care of their reproductive organs and understand how to manage the biological changes that occur during their teenage period (Alomari et al., 2020).
Sex education in the context of Islam can provide practical guidance on sexuality to young Muslims. Sex education could reconcile the conventional expectations of abstinence before marriage with the reality of young people confronting sexuality even before marriage (Nagi, 2017). In Islamic teachings, sex occurs only within the context of marriage, so premarital sex is a sin and the cause of sexually transmitted diseases (Alomair et al., 2020). A participatory action study showed that while young female Muslim students consider sexual abstinence as a way to protect themselves from premarital sex, this is difficult to achieve (Piriyasart et al., 2018). Apart from abstinence, there is no other information on prevention and harm reduction measures (Alomair et al., 2020). Sex education can integrate religious values with practical skills in abstinence and reproductive health. Although abstinence remains the thrust of sex education, acknowledgment of the reality of premarital sex among unmarried young people necessitates the provision of guidance on safe sex, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and gender empowerment (Razali et al., 2017).
Sex education prevents risky and prohibited sexual behaviors in the Muslim culture. In conservative societies, sex education would address risky sexual behavior, sexual violence, and sexual health issues (Alsubaie, 2019). Sex education in the school setting could help students to differentiate between permissible and forbidden actions within Islamic ethics and practice (Ihwani et al., 2018). A mixed study showed that sex education significantly increased the awareness of high school students about the causes and effects of early engagement in sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases (Alfeche & Corales, 2018). Semi-structured interviews with Islamic education teachers showed that comprehensive sex education could protect young Muslims from engaging in sexual misconduct (Ihwani et al., 2016).
Managing to control sexual desires is a huge landmark for adolescents to realize their life goals. According to Daun & Arjmand (2018), sex education will equip the youths with the necessary strategies to manage their sexual desires, which tend to be at their peak during adolescence. Youths will be able to learn about the negative impacts related to sexual relationships and thus are likely to make sound decisions that would ensure their healthy being. Piriyasart et al. (2018) explained that there would be increased sexual abstinence among Muslim teenage girls if sex education were introduced. The number of sexual cases will significantly reduce, implying that many students are likely to complete their higher education without many challenges as in the past (Rahmani et al., 2018). Sham et al. (2020) explained that through sexual education, most teenagers would acquire the necessary religious values that are important not only to their sexual life but to other aspects of their lives as well. Students will likely grow into responsible adults with sufficient self-control and decision-making skills.
Sex education will reduce the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the country. A study by Raheel et al. (2013) indicated that youths form over 55% of the number of sexually transmitted cases in the country. Many youths are currently engaging in irresponsible sexual behavior due to the lack of adequate guidance, which has led to the increased number of STIs in the country. Sex education will be a key approach in limiting the spread of such deadly infections. Most youths do not understand the safe methods or the necessary precautions to undertake while engaging in sexual relationships, and thus, they are highly vulnerable to contracting sexually related infections
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