8 Taboos We Need to Talk About Openly in the Arab World

As a culture, Arabs have a tendency to avoid talking about anything that makes them slightly uncomfortable; they would rather stab their toes a million times than have a painful five-minute chat. We live with the motto that if you avoid something long enough, it will just go away. As surprising as it might sound, denying something doesn’t make it any less real or there, what it actually does is cause more problems that we continue to not talk about…

Talking about controversial topics is a part of life and one of the ways we deal with them; we can’t just go on avoiding everything that’s awkward or difficult and here is why:




1. Sex



Why we should talk about it: The lack of sexual education in Egypt can be traumatizing. Teenagers grow up without receiving any formal sexual education whatsoever and then, when the time comes and they get married for example, they have no idea what to do, which leads to confusion, misunderstandings and, in extreme cases, trauma. Not to mention, people tend to look for information in all the wrong places, which can lead to misconceptions about sex, STDS and the practice of unsafe sex.




2. Mental Illness



Why we need to talk about it: People who suffer from mental illness are in need of help and support. When we don’t talk about it, we deny the existence of the problem itself because we are afraid of society’s reaction. This leads to sick people not getting the treatment they desperately need, of course leading to isolation and misery; in extreme cases, they hurt themselves or those around them.




3. Domestic Abuse



Why we need to talk about it: Victims of domestic abuse are afraid to ask for help in case they won’t find support. In fact, they might find themselves being blamed and dismissed, and the abuse continues to happen over and over. Children then grow up witnessing this and learning that it’s a normal occurrence. They might then grow up to replicate the abuse or become a victim and do nothing about it, and the cycle continues.




4. Arranged Marriages



Why we need to talk about it: Though it does happen less often than in previous generations, people assume that it is no longer an issue today. While some people choose an arranged marriage — and it is completely their right — there are some cases where people are forced, and when we stop talking about it, these people are forgotten and don’t receive the help, comfort or support they need.




5. Homosexuality



Why we need to talk about it: Regardless of your beliefs or feelings on the matter, denying and avoiding the topic doesn’t mean that it’s not there or a part of the Arab world — and, for that matter, the entire world. This is something that people should talk about more, at least just to be more knowledgeable.




6. Racism



Why we need to talk about it: Racism is a problem that the entire world suffers from, and the first step in changing this reality is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Refusing to talk about racism and just saying that “we don’t do that” can actually make the problem worse because nobody is acknowledging that it’s wrong and something that should stop.




7. Abortion



Why we need to talk about it: Abortions are a very controversial topic, but as it’s illegal, people who want to have abortions tend to keep it a secret. They undergo risky, unregulated procedures, which could lead to future reproductive problems, trauma and even death. Talking about abortions and the dangers of unsafe abortions could actually stop a lot of girls from undergoing the procedure and even save their lives.




8. Religious Beliefs (or Lack Thereof)



Why we need to talk about it: People’s beliefs are very important and personal, and in order to have people respect your beliefs, you have to respect other people’s opinions about religion. We can start by making it okay to talk about different belief systems — from other organized religions to atheism — as a normal topic and not something that is off-limits.




WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss 9 Things We “Don’t Have” in the Middle East.

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