Growing Up Sexually





Srinivas (1976:p149)[1] stated that in Rampura,


“[t]he sex urge showed itself from a very young age. According to village opinion, a boy was ready for marriage as soon as he was strong enough to do a man’s work on land, and hair had sprouted above his upper lip [[2]]. And a girl was ready for marriage a year or two before attaining puberty. The consummation ceremony was generally held a few months after puberty. Among orthodox Brahmins, however, parents were required to get their daughters married before they came of age. Failure to do so meant not only incurring the wrath of relatives and caste folk but committing a sin”.


Villagers were convinced that puberty was synonymous with maturity and a mature girl had to have her sex urge satisfied. It was folly to ignore this (p150, 153). Non-Brahmin girls would be “booked” at ages ten or twelve, the wedding taking place at puberty. According to ECPAT (Nov., 2002), “Since sexual intercourse out of wedlock is prohibited in Pakistan there is no specified legal age of consent. According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance the legal age of marriage is 18 years for males and 16 years for girls. However, marriages with children under this age are still valid”.


Among the Lushai and other tribes of east Pakistan, Christianity would have ended “[…] the institution of bachelor houses, whereby sexual experimentation by adolescents was encouraged”[3]. Public discussion of child abuse, sexual abuse, and the sexuality of mentally handicapped people is unwelcome in Pakistan, as in some other Asian and Muslim nations[4]. Among the Muslims, a gradual segregation of the sexes ends successful at puberty, when the children are no longer encouraged to mix; menarche is very important in this respect (Donnan, 1988:p91-7)[5]. Rape of young girls occurred “rather frequently. This is understandable, because grown up girls and women are protected, while young girls have more freedom until they start to menstruate” (Sikkel-Buffinga, 1980:p168)[6].

Wilber (1964:p130-1)[7] relates: “Attitudes of prudery surrounding sexual matters on the part of women result in the situation that many girls enter married life in ignorance”. Under Islamic code, unchaste daughters may be killed in tribal agencies, and “unmarried daughters are carefully protected after puberty and family members keep watch over young men to prevent them from going astray”. “In the Pushtu-speaking areas of West-Pakistan, the unavailability and deprecation of women have encouraged the alternative practice in which the love objects are young boys and homosexual love is part of popular folklore”.


In BaluchistanProvince, “[s]ome engagements were arranged by parents when the spouses-to-be were small children” (Salzman, 2000:p242-3)[8]. “Girls were usually given in marriage around the onset of puberty at fifteen years, but preferably before. As females were believed to have strong sexual desires, this timing was seen as avoiding problems with premarital sex”.


Khan (2000:p17-25)[9] offers a detailed analysis of growing up sexually in Pakistan. Studies detail a high rate of masturbation nosologies.


In a sample of 188 men between the ages 18-30 years, who presented to the outpatient department of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan, 31.4% and 63.8% of the respondents reported association of physical illness and weakness with masturbation[10]. Responses were 14.9% and 42.6% for nocturnal emissions. Aahung[11] found that most questioned boys aged 11-19 believed that masturbation endangered one’s health, and commonly associated it with causing the penis to become crooked or loose. Aagan[12] found that young people feared that their future sexual performance would be negatively affected, that physical weakness, infertility, reduction in penis shape, loss of virginity, or related health problems may result from masturbation. These misconceptions are so deeply rooted in culture and tradition, that researchers may be amazed to discover the hold of some extraordinary myths. For example, male child prostitutes interviewed in the North WestFrontierProvince believed that among all the sexual practices they knew of, including sex with girls, sex with men or boys, sex with animals, and masturbation, the latter was by far the most sinful. In fact, they believed that if someone masturbated God would get a fever”.




“[a]s girls enter puberty and become of marriageable age, they find their mobility and access to opportunities – such as education and employment –severely curtailed, all in the name of preserving their (and their community’s) honor (Khan 1998; Mumtaz and Rauf 1996). If a girl violates social norms and is discovered to have engaged in sexual relations, or even flirtation, with a boy then she will be either beaten or killed according to customary laws, or she will be vulnerable to charges of adultery under the Hudood Ordinances that may lead to imprisonment or death. […] The mainstream media and education system do not offer adolescents the information they need. Parents are also not a source of sex education for their children (Qidwai 1996)[[13]]”.


Ali et al. (2004:23)[14] likewise found that Pakistani youths


“[…] had misconceptions regarding sexually transmitted diseases, and considered night emissions a major sex related disease in the adolescent years. A few shared experiences where they had borrowed or even stolen money from home to get prolonged and expensive treatment from traditional healers for night emissions and masturbation”.


Berti (2003:p11)[15]:


“Since sexual intercourse out of wedlock is prohibited in Pakistan, there is no specified legal age of sexual consent. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 declares that marriage can take place over 18 years of age for a male and over 16 years for a female. Under these ages, marriage is punishable with fine and imprisonment but the law does not invalidate the marriage. Hence, in Pakistan it is common practice that a male parent or guardian contracts the minor child in marriage without her or his consent. Once a girl is promised in marriage and the act is registered, the girl will be regarded as formally married and sexual intercourse can legally happen. Marital rape of a girl over 12 is not criminalised by Pakistani laws”.








Further reading:


§         CRLP (2004) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: South Asia.  []

§         Khan, Aysha & Pine, Pamela (January, 2003) Adolescent Reproductive Health in Pakistan: Status, Issues, Policies, and Programs. []

§         Monique Hennink, Imran Rana & Robina Iqbal, Knowledge of personal and sexual development amongst young people in Pakistan. Opportunities and Choices Workking [Sic] Paper No. 12, June 2004 []





Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology, Berlin

Last revised: Dec 2004


[1] Srinivas, M. N. (1976) The Remembered Village. Delhi [etc.]: OxfordUniversity Press

[2] The moustache later lost its symbolof masculinity in more urban regions.

[3] Sopher, D. E. (1964) The Swidden/Wet-Rice Transition Zone in the Chittagong Hills, Ann Assoc Am Geographers 54,1:107-26, at p113

[4] Miles, M. (1996) Walking delicately around mental handicap, sex education and abuse in Pakistan, Child Abuse Rev 5,4:263-74

[5] Donnan, H. (1988) Marriage among Muslims. Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation

[6] Sikkel-Buffinga, A. J. (1980) Roles and attitudes toward sexual behavior in Pakistan, in Forleo, R. & Pasini, W. (Ed.) Medical Sexology. Amsterdam [etc.]: Elsevier, p166-9

[7] Wilber, D. N. (1964) Pakistan. New Haven: HRAF Press

[8] Salzman, Ph. C. (2000) Black Tents of Baluchistan. Washington [etc.]: Smithsonian Institution Press

[9] Khan, A. (June, 2000) Adolescents and Reproductive Health in Pakistan: A Literature Review. Final Report. The Population Council, Pakistan Office

[10] Qidwai, W. (1999) Sexual knowledge and practice in Pakistani young men, J Pak Med Assoc 49,10:251-4. Cf. Khan, A. (June, 2000) Adolescents and Reproductive Health in Pakistan: A Literature Review. Final Report. The Population Council, Pakistan Office, p18

[11] Aahung (1999) AIDS Awareness Programme, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Survey Report. Karachi: Aahung AIDS Awareness Programme. Khan (2000:p18-9)

[12] Aangan (1998) Aangan Compilation of Sexual Concerns of the Youth (Non-Child Sexual Abuse Cases). Islamabad: Aangan. Khan (2000:p19)

[13] Qidwai, W. (1996) Assessment of Sexual Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices in Young Males Presenting to General Practitioners in Karachi, Pakistan. Dissertation. Karachi: College of Physicians and Surgeons. Khan (2000:p23)

[14] Ali, Moazzam; Mohammad Ayaz Bhatti1 And Hiroshi Ushijima (2004) Reproductive Health Needs of Adolescent Males in Rural Pakistan: An Exploratory Study, Tohoku J Exp Med 204:17-35

[15] Berti, S. (2003) Rights of the Child in Pakistan. Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Pakistan. Report prepared for the Committee on the Rights of the Child 34th session – Geneva, September 2003