Dhaka, Sept 27 (BDNEWS) - Despite sex before marriage is still a taboo for most young people in Bangladeshi society, such taboo is gradually being erased while younger generation are falling prey to ignorance about sexual health risks.
Portraying the social and cultural setting of urban Dhaka to understand sexual conduct and the factors that contribute to sexual health risks, a thorough research book titled "Romance and Pleasure: Understanding the Sexual Conduct of Young People in Dhaka in the Era of HIV and AIDS" by Dr Lazeena Muna found that many young people secretly evade parental and social restrictions.
Norwegian Ambassador in Dhaka Aud Lise Norheim Monday evening opened the ribbon of the book at a formal function held at a city hotel and underscored the need for inclusion of sex education in the school curriculum.
UNICEF Programme Communication Officer Dr Judith Graeff, Associate Editor of The New Age Syed Badrul Ahsan and Prof Niaz Zaman on behalf of publishing house University Press Limited spoke at the function on the book.
They said the book, in which the researcher interviewed 53 young guys and girls on their intimate relationships, is an "eye-opener" and a "bold" one that could raise controversy.
According to Muna's research, society tends to turn a blind eye towards men's sexual activities. "Bangladeshi men are not pressured to be sexually active," she said in her book.
"However, the society silently condones young men's sexual liaisons, as they understand the difficulty of not being sexually active for an unrealistic long period until they marry."
Women, however, are not so lucky. Not only are their sexual experiences viewed in a negative light but they are also subjected to public humiliation and isolation if their so-called secret gets out.
"... the tendency of females to hold more open-minded views than males about premarital sexual conduct, despite the fact that the majority of them are not sexually active. In contrast, a double-standard was observed in the case pf many male respondents, who reflected conservative attitudes regarding women's engagement in sexual intimacy before marriage, but, at the same time, were themselves engaged in sexual intercourse," she wrote.
Muna found that one fourth of romantic relationships of females in her study led to sexual intercourse. The rationales offered by women for breaking social codes are love, commitment and the prospect of marriage.
"In contrast, some men appeared to be more exploitative. Some reported sexual intercourse in romantic relationships for which they saw no long-term future. Sexual intercourse strictly for pleasure is common among young men. About half of the males had multiple partners, including married women and sex workers," she wrote.
According to Muna, middle class, unmarried college students in Bangladesh demonstrate a strikingly low level of knowledge and low use of modern contraceptive methods.
On the topic of contraception and safe sex, she said, "… sexually active people practise a combination of methods. A preference for the so-called traditional methods was observed."
In her study, Muna interviewed a 19-year-old girl who became sexually active at the age of 15 with her 22-year-old boyfriend. At that time, she believed that it was marriage and not sex that made one pregnant and therefore, unconsciously and unknowingly engaged in the rhythm method form of contraception.
Muna narrated unprotected sexual intercourse as one of the vital modes of HIV transmission cited by the respondents. "While general knowledge regarding the transmission of and protection from HIV was accurate, important cognitive deficiencies were discovered on deeper analysis."
"Many respondents did not clearly understand the concept of safer sex or transmission of infection. For example, one female respondent reported that 'perverted sex' -- that is, having sex with more than one person on the same occasion -- as opposed to unprotected sex led to HIV infection."
Although nobody wants to admit it or talk about it, there are more and more cases of premarital sex every day.