By Maida Sheikh
Zahra Haider’s article on what she learnt on having sex in Pakistan was a small truth, but it doesn’t define the whole of Pakistan or Pakistanis. She doesn’t claim to define Pakistanis either – which is a relief. I found the article interesting, however nothing she said was explosive or bold to me.
I was not surprised by Zahra’s admission to having slept with a dozen different men, since most likely she isn’t the only one. She does have a point, there are plenty of sexually repressed people out there who are looking for private sanctuaries and rooms to fulfill their sexual fantasies. There are people open to sex and this was a known fact to the millennial generation in Pakistan – whether they were from villages or cities, the rich or poor, sex is important to many people.
Yes, sex is absolutely a taboo topic in this country. I wish it wasn’t, because maybe then we would be able to talk about how this country seriously needs sex education. But wait, some people are doing something about it. Sex Ed in Pakistan is happening or at least in one village. It has yet to hit main stream schools. As a former teacher, I did tell my students that their bodies were their own and no one had a right to touch them in a way that was improper, explaining this of course in a child-friendly way.
Sex Ed shouldn’t be scary nor should it be something that feels humiliating, it’s necessary for boys and girls to understand the changes their bodies go through, and they have a right to know that they should not be touched in certain areas. As far as having consensual sex goes, that is not something that should be taught in schools but rather something that young adults will mostly learn on their own.
Does one have to tell their story the way Zahra did? I wouldn’t. She chose to and was willing to discuss this topic mainly because it was regarding her feelings and opinions. And that’s fine by me (not like she should care!), however people should stop sensationalizing what she voiced. She said it and if you have a different opinion, use whatever platform you have and express yourself.
I mentioned above that sex is important to many people in Pakistan, but a lot of them do not live lives where they feel sexually repressed. There are girls and boys doing different things with their lives and at this moment, sex might not be their biggest worry. There are plenty of new, young entrepreneurs out there who are busy carving their names out to be something.
We all live different lives and have different experiences- mine was totally different from most people. I lived in a world that had me shuttling between different continents every 6 months – allowing my life to have the acceptance of the two different cultures that grants me the knowledge and privilege to pick my identity (some people might say I have more than one identity, that’s fine by me). I accept myself and I accept everyone’s ability to pick their own uniqueness. To live a healthy life, we should only be concerned with ourselves and care enough for our neighbors in such a way that it doesn’t become a form of character judgment. No one likes to be judged, but then again we all are humans (no angels amongst us, I’m afraid) and there is some form of scrutiny – once you learn to live with it and you’ll be fine.
Zahra actually didn’t learn much about sex or sexuality here in Pakistan- she learnt about it when she moved to Canada. I went to school in Canada and I didn’t learn much about sex there, but then again wasn’t really looking. I guess I found things less shocking coming from a background that was an amalgamation of two cultures. Also, in no way does being religious always make you judgmental. It’s a disease a lot of people suffer from even without religious affiliations.
I’m going to end by saying that sex happens in Pakistan and it also doesn’t happen. It depends on who you are and your experiences, and this is true for people around the world. Sex will always happen, wherever you go, you just need to know if you want to or do not want to be involved – you and only you, can make that decision.
The writer can be reached on twitter @MaidaSheikh .