Sex education in Kazakhstan: Disturbing reality

Sex ed.jpg

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In Kazakhstan the question of sexual and reproductive litteracy among teenagers is a burning, but constantly ingnored matter. In 2016 “4254 babies were born to fifteen- and sixteen-year-old girls” (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018, p. 1). Yet, these numbers do not fully represent the real picture: the reports on unregistered cases of birth, abortion and baby abandonment are regularly cropping up along with increase in the rate of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). These depressing figures might be a consequence of sex and reproduction topic being under taboo due to various cultural and religious reasons (it is shameful to discuss such topics). Although the government has made attempts to educate teenagers on sexual and reproductive health by creating laws and introducing pilot sexuality education course in several colleges, the situation is still aggrevating and requires urgent measures.

Several legislative steps were taken to solve the issue of sexual and reproductive illiteracy. These steps included the adoption of  the Concept of Moral and Sexual Education in 2001, the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Children’s Rights in 2002, the Law on Reproductive Rights of Citizens and Guarantees of Their Implementation in 2004, healthcase development programms “Salamatty Kazakhstan 2011–2015” and “Densaulyk 2016–2020”, the Concept of the State Youth Policy in 2013 (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). Event though all these initiatives acknowledged the problem of  sexual and reproductive illiteracy to some degree, prevailing majority of them did not provoke any particular actions that would change the situation. For instance, medical centers continue breaking “the principles of privacy and anonymity” and do not provide medical help to teenagers younger than 18  (when it comes to “sensitive” issues) unless they are accompanied by a parent (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018, p. 6). This makes teenagers avoid medical assisstance out of mistrust and fear and struggle alone in case of physical and mental health issues. Thus, teenagers resort to searching information on sexual and reproductive health on Internet where information is not always reliable (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). More to this, great number of drugstores still refuse to sell contraceptions to teenagers which might be one of the reasons for high teenage birth rate (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018).

Another initiative proposed by  local authorities was introduction of pilot sexual and reproductive literacy courses called “Valeologiya” in several colleges and even schools. This proposal was supported by both students and parents since they were unsure about correct way of approching the taboo topic. Although teenagers were able to discuss certain topics related to sexual and reproductive health, training was unsystematic and teaching was not  monitored (Soros-Kazakhstan Fund, 2018). Moreover, the course demonstrated stereotyped thinking about genders and contributed to victim-building (Soros-Kazakhstan Fund, 2018). For instance, during the lessons, in role plays of sexual abuse mostly girls were positioned as victims (as though boys are never sexually abused) and were taught that the outcome of the situation depended solely on girls behaviour. It puts great amount of pressure and responsibility on girls: if a teenage girl is sexually harrassed or gets pregnant, that is her fault (logic which is supported by many people). In other words, even if the course has created chances for youth to learn about sexual and reproductive health, it still requires serious changes.

My point of view on this matter is that we need to take considerable steps towards educating youth about this taboo topic. Now, when some teenagers are persecuted by “uyat” (shame), they are not able to deal with the issues that have arosen because of sexual and reproductive illiteracy. Now, when teenage birth rate and abortion is increasing, especially in the southern part of Kazakhstan, and newborn babies are thrown away by frightened teenagers, we stay silent and blind (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). It is high time for us to take the issue into serious consideration. I do think that teeangers have to be aware of situation and get reliable information from adults about sexual and reproductive health. Opponents of such view might say that it will pollute pure minds of young generation. However, teenagers do know about sex (thanks to Internet), and we have to make sure that this knowledge does not harm them.


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Who do you think is responsible for teaching teenagers about sexual and reproductive health?


CAP Fellows Paper 200. (2018). Overcoming a Taboo: Normalizing Sexuality Education in Kazakhstan. Washington, DC: Kabatova, K. Retrieved from

Soros-Kazakhstan Fund. (2018). Половое просвещение в системе школьного образование Республики Казахстан: Учить нельзя, молчать? Almaty: Kabatova, K., & Marinin, S. Retrieved from



7 thoughts on “Sex education in Kazakhstan: Disturbing reality

  1. That is right, it is a taboo issue in our society. Kazakhstani authorities only raise issues when teenage girls get pregnant or abandon their newborns, parents are also ashamed of talking about such topics with their offsprings. However, they don’t see the root of the problem which is the lack of support and knowledge about taboo.
    This taboo issue should be taught in schools, colleges, even universities. Its consequences should be thoroughly explained with pieces of evidence.As parents are responsible for their children, authorities should consider working with them first, and only then they could also explain this sexual issue to their kids. Only collaborated work can give fruitful results.

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  2. Thank you, Diana, for sharing this interesting topic. To be honest, due to our Kazakh mentality nowadays it is still a problem for parents to give instructions about “sex education” because it is considered as a “shame” thing that parents shouldn’t discuss it with their children. I support an idea where short instructions should be presented in secondary schools in such a way that teenagers will know basic knowledge about “sex education”. The other part of intimate knowledge teenagers will be received when their time arrives, but not earlier 18-19s. Generally speaking, teenagers who have already begun sexual lives, in most cases they are being badly brought up in the families.

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  3. The issue is really becoming more and more problematic. And I agree that it isn’t a simple educational problem but has something to do with culture as well. But, as you said, it cannot be solved with silence. I agree with #magic_sunshine that the only solution is collaborative work. Talking about collaboration, I think mass media also should be responsible to start talking about the issue and explain the importance. I mean, we can see a lot of “bad news” about this particular topic on news, but I have never seen an interview or meaningfull discussion with experts on news. May be, they also have this concept of “uyat”.

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  4. Thank you for this post. I have heard thousand times that it is so embarassing even to mention sex education. I think mass media plays major role in promoting that kind of education and let people, who can’t even pronounce the word ‘Sex’ without getting red, that they need to take all of rhis easier.

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  5. Thank you, Diana, for raising this issue. This is sad to hear those horrendous stories in the mass media mentioned in your post, but we must admit, our society is too conservative to name the problem and explicitly discuss it. As this problem is adjacent to moral values, it is an issue concerning cultural aspect. However, I agree with your claim on that younger generation is hugely exposed to the internet and is more likely to be morally aware of such “a sensitive topic”. Therefore, I think, sex education is necessary for teenagers upbringing process: it may be conducted as a lecture within “upbringing lessons” (those mainstream schools graduates may remember it). Generally, as this issue is quite complex, it requires considerable exertions from both parents and educators.

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  6. This is such a hot-button topic you’ve touched here. Most people think that not talking about something unwelcome prevents it. There is a saying in Kazakh “Қыз балаға қырық үйден тиым” which means something like “girls should be tabooed in everything”. Well, I always say “Forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest”. Not talking about something doesn’t prevent things and tabooing things even has a reverse effect. The only right thing here is to talk and to educate. But who will teach this subject at schools, when Kazakh people (well, at least most of them) are ashamed even to say the word “sex”? I think, the only thing they can teach is that “sex is bad” and “sex is uyat (shame)”, which will not make the situation better. The same can be said about parents. My parents never talked to me on this topic when I was at school. When I was about 14 or 15 I came across a book on the shelves of our home library – an encyclopedia for newly married (a present for my parents wedding). There was a chapter on sexual life, including wedding night and other stuff:) Well, this is where I learned a lot, a lot of right things. So, thanks, parents, at least for having that book:) So, books on sexual education might be good to start with. At least, until teachers learn to speak about the topic:)

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  7. Let me first be an impressed English teacher. This is a great sentence:
    Yet, these numbers do not fully represent the real picture: the reports on unregistered cases of birth, abortion and baby abandonment are regularly cropping up along with increase in the rate of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018).

    Then I’ll point out some strong cohesion:
    Several legislative steps were taken to solve the issue of sexual and reproductive illiteracy. These steps included…

    And finally, I’ll nitpick some grammar:

    introducing pilot sexuality education course (plural or article needed)
    Thus, teenagers resort to searching __ information on ___ Internet (preposition and article)
    More to this, __ great number of drugstores (article)

    Super post!


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