The student sex ‘scandal’ that laid bare Egypt’s population problem | Ruth Michaelson | Global development

When a group of Egyptian university students submitted a magazine on sex education for their final-year assignment, they hardly imagined they would fail their course and spark a media backlash.

Yet that is exactly what happened when the project, submitted to the media and mass communications department at Cairo’s al-Azhar University, was rejected as unsuitable. Articles about the “scandal” appeared in the local media, and the students feared expulsion.

In a statement, the group said: “We assure everyone that our magazine, Secrets, is a social magazine.

“We stress that the project doesn’t deal with pornography or sex education in general, but rather with social problems. Harassment, myths and superstitions, addiction to pornography sites, the loss of wives’ rights, calling for teaching materials for sex education in schools and universities … we discussed these topics without any indecency, as we have learned from our professors.”

The defence fell on deaf ears. Eventually, after resubmitting a magazine about sport, they passed their course. The students still fear reprisals, though, and declined to discuss the issue when approached.

The Arab world’s most populous country is experiencing a population boom that experts say has been caused by a lack of access to education and contraceptives.

In May, Egypt’s national statistics agency, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (Capmas) announced that Egypt’s population had officially hit 93 million. The agency had previously said the population was expanding at a rate of 1 million people every six months.

This growth is often celebrated, but there is a danger it may stretch Egypt’s strained economy and infrastructure beyond breaking point.

The number of people living in Cairo, Egypt’s overcrowded capital, is increasing by 500,000 a year. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

In a recent interview, Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said:…

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