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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

An exploratory study of Muslim adolescents' views on sexuality: Implications for sex education and prevention

Chris Smerecnik12, Herman Schaalma3, Kok Gerjo3*, Suzanne Meijer4 and Jos Poelman4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Promotion, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

2 School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, The Netherlands

3 Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

4 STI-AIDS Netherlands, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:533  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-533

Published: 5 September 2010

Abstract

Background

This paper describes the results of an exploratory qualitative study on Muslim adolescents' views on sexuality in the Netherlands.

Methods

Data were gathered from an Internet forum on which 44 Muslim and 33 non-Muslim adolescents discussed sexuality as it relates to Islam. These discussions were subsequently analyzed for content using Nvivo 2.0.

Results

Our analysis revealed several issues that are relevant for the design of future sex education programs targeting Muslim youth. Apart from some expected outcomes regarding, for example, taboos on sexuality, sex outside marriage, abortion, homosexuality and conservative gender roles, our analyses showed that in cases of disputes 1) discussions were polarized, 2) opponents used the same Qur'anic passages to support their views, and 3) the authority of an Imam was questioned when his interpretation of Qur'anic passages was not in line with the views of participants.

Conclusions

Our findings show that current approaches to sex education among Muslim youth are likely to be unsuccessful given the rigidity of sexual norms in Muslim society. In addition, we also identified new barriers to sex education among Muslim youth (e.g. lack of respect for an Imam who opposes a youth's views on sexuality).