As Turks debate the pros and cons of more traditional versus more liberal social values, one subject remains off the table -- sexuality and sex education.
“You can't really talk about sex education in Turkey,” commented Belgin Akaltan, an editor at the English-language Hürriyet Daily News who writes the newspaper’s blog on human sexuality. “Let alone sex education in schools, parents don't educate their children, either,” Akaltan added. “It is, generally speaking, a taboo.”
A fierce critic of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Akaltan argues that the Islamist-rooted party’s conservative stance and practices do not encourage Turks to learn about sex in a way that promotes healthy attitudes and practices.
Despite the risks posed by a lack of understanding, knowledge itself is often seen as an even greater danger to society. One doctor who works at a clinic in a conservative Istanbul neighborhood believes that the Turkish government “may think [that] if you talk about sexuality and sex a lot, maybe these kids will be more curious about it.”
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.