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Knowledge and Needs:
Young Muslim Women
in Melbourne, Australia
Rebecca M. Meldrum
, Pranee Liamputtong
and Dennis Wollersheim
In this article, we discuss the sexual health knowledge and needs among young
Muslim women living in Melbourne, Australia. Eleven young Muslim women were
individually interviewed about issues relating to sexual health knowledge and needs,
access to sexual health services, and their experiences of balancing their lives in
relation to sexual health. Findings revealed a marked influence of religion and culture
on sexual health of young Muslim women. They often faced challenges balancing
Muslim culture, Australian culture, and Islamic religion. Our findings have implications
for health services in a multicultural society. They could be used to promote cultur-
ally sensitive sexual health services for young Muslim women in Australia and
sexuality, young Muslim women, qualitative research, sexual health needs,
Australia, influence of culture, sexual health knowledge
In this article, we discuss the sexual health knowledge and sexual health needs
of young Muslim women living in Melbourne, Australia. According to Erens
cultural inﬂuences, such as religious norms, traditions, and gendered
International Journal of Health
!The Author(s) 2015
Reprints and permissions:
Department of Public Health, School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and
Engineering, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Pranee Liamputtong, Department of Public Health, School of Psychology and Public Health, College of
Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Melbourne, Victoria 3086, Australia.
expectations, can inﬂuence how young Muslim women gain knowledge about
sexual health. With a few exceptions, there has been little exploration of the
combined inﬂuence of culture and religion on the sexual health needs of young
Muslim women in Australia. Muhammad
suggests that young Muslim women
living in Australia often attempt to balance meeting the expectations of Islamic
religion (an Abrahamic religion revealed in seventh-century Arabia by the
Prophet Muhammad), Muslim culture (a broad and diverse culture of
people who are adherent to Islam), and the Australian culture (a broad and
diverse Western culture). Muhammad’s research
regarding perceptions of
sexual education among Muslim adolescents identiﬁed that in both the
public and private spheres, sexuality has a prominent place in Islam. This
research further suggests it is very common for young Muslim women living
in Western societies to attempt to balance their sexuality in both their private
and public spheres in a way that reﬂects the norms and expectations of both
spheres. Likewise, Rawson and Liamputtong
suggest that the disparity in
cultural and religious norms can result in individuals adopting diﬀering ideas
and attitudes from that of their parents, or seeking to adopt a cultural
approach that allows for meeting both traditional expectations and main-
stream Australian norms. The experience of young Muslim women living in
two diﬀerent cultures and social systems often inﬂuences the meanings young
Muslim women have surrounding their sexuality, as well as the way in which
they express their sexuality.
In response to scant information about the sexual health knowledge and
needs of young Muslim women, in this article we explore their sexual health
knowledge and sexual health needs. This article is one of very few research
studies that use a qualitative approach to examine the inﬂuence of Islamic reli-
gion and culture on the sexual health of young Muslim women in Australia. Our
ﬁndings have implications for health promotion in a multicultural society. They
could be used to promote culturally sensitive sexual health services for young
Muslim women in Australia and elsewhere. It should be noted that, in this
article, “young people” or “young women” will refer to those aged 18–25
We contend that the speciﬁed age group would provide appropriate
knowledge about sexual health from a young person’s perspective.
Sexual Health: Global and National Context
Sexual health is considered to be an important factor for the overall health and
well-being of human beings.
Aspects of sexual health are widely acknowledged
to be both contributors and outcomes of four of the seven Millennium
“Universal education,” “gender equality,” “maternal
health,” and “combat HIV/AIDS” are that sexual health can signiﬁcantly inﬂu-
ence or be a direct outcome of. It is clear from the World Health Organization
deﬁnition of sexual health and the Millennium Developmental Goals that sexual
2International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
health among young people, especially young women, is a multifactorial and
multilayered issue, encompassing complex areas that require sensitive and stra-
Blum and Nelson-Mmari
examine the global context of young people’s
sexual health and identify that at least 111 million sexually transmitted diseases
(STIs) occur in people younger than 25 each year. Additionally, the World
estimates that 1 in 20 young people worldwide acquires
an STI each year. McMichael
suggests that young people worldwide are at
risk of adverse consequences of sexual behavior such as increased transmis-
sions of STIs, coerced sexual relationships, and early/unplanned pregnancies.
This is largely attributed to the disempowerment of young people. Couch
acknowledge that statistics reﬂecting STIs and unwanted pregnancy
rates appear alarming. However, in contrast to McMichael,
Couch et al.
argue that young people are not universally at risk for STIs and that they can
be responsible and resourceful if they are empowered. Despite the diﬀering
perspectives of McMichael
and Couch et al.,
they both highlight the neces-
sity of empowering young people about sexual health and needs. This is par-
ticularly so for culturally diverse young women who are considered as a
vulnerable population group in the areas of sexual health issues and concerns,
as a result of family values and cultural environments that reinforce gender
The inﬂuence of social factors, such as religion and culture, on the sexual
health of young women undeniably is signiﬁcant in Australia. The Department
of Immigration and Citizenship
identiﬁes that the Muslim population in
Australia is a relatively young group. With increasing multicultural communities
in Australia, the growing prevalence of diverse cultures and religion is appar-
This development highlights an area requiring investigation into how we
can understand and encompass culture and religion in order to promote and
improve positive sexual health outcomes for young women. Recent literature
exploring the sexual health of young Vietnamese women suggests that “cultural
factors and their impact on sex and sexuality are not fully explored, particularly
among ethnically diverse groups of young people in Western nations” (p344).
In addition to cultural factors, it is suggested that religion also has a signiﬁcant
inﬂuence on the sexual health knowledge, needs, and access to services of young
women in Australia.
Additionally, access to appropriate contraception is a common issue among
women, with barriers being physical, cultural, and religious.
There is, however,
a lack of literature exploring these three barriers to contraception among young
women. Considering the signiﬁcant inﬂuence religion and culture can have on
and the importance of sexual health, this lack of research calls
for an investigation of any existing or potential barriers to contraception of
young Muslim women in Australia. This article attempts to ﬁll this
Meldrum et al. 3
Theoretical Framework: Cultural Sensitivity
In this article, we situate the discussion of our research and ﬁndings within the
theoretical framework of cultural sensitivity by exploring the inﬂuence that reli-
gion and culture can have on sexual health knowledge and outcomes.
sensitivity involves acknowledging that many individuals live in culturally
diverse societies and suggests that cultural backgrounds play an important
role in the construction of our health beliefs and practices.
Reﬂecting a sensi-
tive approach to culture and religion through the application of conceptual
frameworks and theories is imperative to provide the most appropriate, eﬀective
services for diverse communities.
devises the “theory of culture care: diversity and universality,”
which provides a holistic and comprehensive approach to the provision of care
that is in harmony with an individual’s or group’s cultural beliefs, practices, and
values. This theory will be used to guide understanding of Islamic beliefs, values,
and traditions that can be utilized as a way to improve the sexual health behav-
iors and health care treatment of young Muslim women in Australia.
In addition, the theory of culture care promotes the continuously evolving
nature of culture, and therefore the need for health care services to evolve their
understandings and services in a way that reﬂects an ability to respond to cul-
ture, religion, and diversity.
It is therefore necessary to acknowledge that
both religion and culture often evolve and generate new ideas and expectations,
which can signiﬁcantly aﬀect the sexual health of young Muslim women.
Study Design and Methods
This article is based on our qualitative research study that explored the sexual
health needs and knowledge of young Muslim women in Melbourne, Australia.
As little is known about young Muslim women and sexuality, qualitative inquiry
is essential to understanding the lived experiences of individuals within the social
world, as well as the meanings and interpretations of their experiences.
In order to generate in-depth descriptions from participants, we employed a
semi-structured interview method in this study.
Based on their choices, we
interviewed the women at a university in Melbourne, Australia. The duration
of the interviews ranged between 60 and 90 minutes. All interviews were rec-
orded and later transcribed for data analysis. The interview item guide is pre-
sented in Table 1.
Ethical clearance was obtained from the University Ethics Committee. In
presenting the ﬁndings, we used pseudonyms to protect the conﬁdentiality of
the participants. Once ethical clearance was obtained, participant recruitment
was primarily conducted through a metropolitan university in Melbourne,
Australia, with the remaining participants being recruited through the snowball
technique. The snowball technique is commonly used in research considered
It allows researchers to recruit participants who are diﬃcult to
4International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
reach. Initial contact was made with the key member of the Islamic Society
located within the university. We were then invited to promote the research to
women at an Islamic event. Some women were recruited then; others voiced their
interest; and the remaining women later made contact as they learned of the
The participants included in this study were women aged 18–25 years who
were living in Melbourne and identiﬁed as Muslim. The sociodemographic char-
acteristics of the participants are presented in Table 2. The number of partici-
pants was determined by saturation theory; data collection continued until little
new information could be obtained.
Saturation occurred around number ten,
but we continued interviewing to ensure that saturation did occur.
We employed thematic analysis technique to analyze the data. This technique
allows for the identiﬁcation, analysis, and reporting of patterns within data to be
Data analysis began by the use of initial coding, which is used to
identify codes that are present within and among participants’ transcripts (see
Table 3). Each code was deﬁned and, once a number of codes had emerged, axial
coding was used to connect and relate diﬀerent codes to form themes.
themes are presented in the Results section.
Five main themes emerged from the data. The ﬁrst three themes related to
sexual health sources of knowledge, knowledge of contraceptives and STIs,
Table 1. Interview Item Guide.
Where would you say you have obtained the majority of your sexual health knowledge?
What have you learned about sexually transmitted diseases? Tell me what you know about
How have you learned about contraception? What is your earliest memory of
How has your sexual behavior been influenced by your religion and culture?
How do you balance what you learn about sexual health from your religion and culture with
what you may have learned from Western-style education?
If you needed sexual health resources, such as contraception, would you be able to easily
access them? If so, how would you? If not, why?
Are there any health services that you may feel comfortable contacting or using if you
needed to seek sexual health assistance? Why/why not?
Apart from your GP, are there any other sexual health services that you know of?
If you had a sexual health-related concern, who would be the first person you would tell,
Do you feel that there is a need to provide more culturally sensitive education and services
for young Muslim women in Australia? If yes, what do you think would be useful in order to
improve education and services?
Meldrum et al. 5
and sexual health needs. The last two themes, access to sexual health services
and resources and sexual health, religion, and culture, related to the experiences
of the women balancing living in two diﬀerent cultures with respect to their
Table 2. Sociodemographic Characteristics of the Participants.
Sociodemographic Characteristics Number
Place of birth
Saudi Arabia 1
Length of stay in Australia
Under 12 months 1
1–5 years 1
5 + years 9
In a relationship 1
Tertiary education 8
Post-graduate education 3
Type of accommodation
Living with parents 7
Living with partner 0
Living in share house 4
6International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
Sexual Health and Sources of Knowledge
The young women obtained knowledge relating to sexual health from four
sources: parents, friends, mass media, and high school programs. Jalhai (age
22, born in Pakistan) explained how she had received sexual education from her
mother and expressed comfort when talking about sexual health together:
I would have learnt most sexual health stuﬀ from my Mum. She taught me all
about periods and because she takes the pill, I also learnt about that too[...] I feel
comfortable speaking with my Mum about it. She is pretty relaxed and knows a lot.
The inﬂuence of friends as sources of sexual health knowledge was common
among the participants:
My friends told me about contraception. Like how to control it naturally. Like if
you don’t take the pill a few days before your period and you have sex, then you
won’t get pregnant [...] It’s kind of fun talking about it with friends. And obviously
we trust each other. (Jasmine, age 25, born in Malaysia)
The role of mass media in sexual education was mentioned by six partici-
pants, drawing on magazines and advertisements:
I used to read Dolly and I beneﬁted from it because their responses to sex stuﬀ are
backed with facts and knowledge. I think sometimes they are actually doctors that
reply. I like that. (Mirah, age 18, born in Saudi Arabia)
The disparity of health knowledge from high school programs was largely
attributed to whether the high school was considered secular or had an Islamic
aﬃliation. Women who attended Islamic high schools received basic health edu-
cation, but often lacked knowledge of anything related to sex or sexual issues:
My high school that I went to in Sydney, once the principal came into class and
ripped out all the sexual health pages from the textbooks. We weren’t taught any-
thing about sex at school. (Nylul, age 25, born in Somalia)
Table 3. Example of Data Analysis.
Because my doctor is friend with my Mum, if I knew there was no way my Mum could find out, then I
would feel more comfortable. I would like to go to a place that they have no record of me and no
record of my details. Then I would feel comfortable (Alala, Australia-born)
-Importance of confidentiality/anonymity and privacy
-Need to feel ‘comfortable’
-Fear of judgment from Mum
Meldrum et al. 7
However, three women who attended a secular high school seemed to receive
suﬃcient sexual health knowledge:
Those classes that we had in high school [...] The teachers went through menstru-
ation, diseases, support services, stuﬀ like that. We learnt about contraception too,
like pills [...] My school integrated health and sex. (Lily, age 19, born in Australia)
Only one woman had been exposed to sexual health-related education at a
university level, with topics being more speciﬁc, such as human reproductive
organs and systems:
We were learning about human reproductive organs at university and my friends
were talking about sexual education they had at school. I didn’t really know what
they were talking about. But I know a lot of what they talk about now. (Trish, age
19, born in Fiji)
Our ﬁndings suggested that there were mixed experiences with knowledge
obtained from the various sources, with some participants having very little
sexual health knowledge, and others having received satisfactory levels of
sexual health knowledge from the four sources.
Knowledge of Contraceptives and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
The overall knowledge of STIs was noticeably low, with only two participants
expressing conﬁdence in naming STIs and understanding what they are and how
they are transmitted:
I only know of HIV. I would assume it is transmitted through bodily ﬂuids. I can’t
think of any others. I was never taught about them. (Trish, age 19, born in Fiji)
HIV, well [...] it’s not exactly an STI. It’s more of a cancer, isn’t it? Also the thing
called “crabs.” I learnt that from movies. I don’t know how you get it though.
(Aala, age 25, born in Australia)
Those who were able to name STIs largely mentioned HIV, but had very
limited knowledge about it with regard to its nature, transmission, and treat-
ment. It was common for those who had engaged in some form of sexual activity
to have more knowledge of STIs. Similarly, three women who were exposed to
sexual health education classes at high school also expressed more knowledge
I learnt a fair bit from school. I don’t remember a lot of it but I think I
know enough. Like I can name most of them and know that to avoid
8International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
getting them I would have to use contraception. (Nylul, age 25, born in
When asked about earliest memory of contraception, four participants
recalled a negative reaction from family members in response to their curiosity
about the advertisement or movie:
The ad was very unclear. It said to take the pill if you want a break between
children. I was curious about the ad and so I asked my aunt. She scolded me
and told me it was not something I should talk about. (Jalhai age 22, born in
It was clear that the young women in our study had little knowledge about
STIs and contraception. This reﬂected a lack of knowledge about sexual health
in general and closed attitudes toward sexual health within family and Muslim
Sexual Health Needs of Young Muslim Women
As most participants identiﬁed the closed attitudes toward sexual health among
Muslim cultures, they expressed the need for several improvements to be made.
Four women who mentioned concern about conﬁdentiality expressed a need for
sexual health services to be more anonymous or at least to promote patient
Because my doctor is friends with my Mum, if I knew there was no way my Mum
could ﬁnd out, then I would feel more comfortable. I would like to go to a place
that they have no record of me and no record of my details. Then I would feel
comfortable. (Aala, age 25, born in Australia)
The need for increased and improved support services for young Muslim
women was another common concern among participants. Many women articu-
lated the need for more culturally and religiously sensitive support to be made
available to young Muslim women:
There needs to be more support for Muslim women who are not too sure about sex
and Islam. It can be hard to know exactly what is right and wrong sometimes, like
where the line is. Also, I don’t know too much about sexual health, so I think it
would be good to learn this with other Muslim women. (Jasmine, age 25, born in
Two participants even acknowledged that some single Muslim women do
engage in sexual activities. They expressed the importance for the Muslim
Meldrum et al. 9
community to take this occurrence into consideration instead of imposing reli-
gious restrictions on women:
In the end, knowledge is knowledge. It might feel uncomfortable, but if it is some-
thing you have to know for your health, then it goes beyond that religious restric-
tion. (Mirah, age 18, born in Saudi Arabia)
The young women in this study did have sexual health needs. Thus, they
suggested that religious restrictions should not be imposed on young Muslim
women. Instead, they called for more culturally sensitive sexual health care for
young Muslim women.
Access to Sexual Health Services and Resources
For many participants, physically accessing sexual health services was not a
problem. Instead, they expressed more concern about conﬁdentiality or ano-
nymity. It was common for participants to express a sense of concern or fear
about the consequences from their family and/or community if they found out
the women were seeking sexual health services:
I am hesitant about conﬁdentiality. I would make sure that they are not going to
send any information back to my house where my parents would read it. When I
went to get tested for Chlamydia, I went to an anonymous sexual health clinic in
the city. I don’t think I would go anywhere else. (Kaleese, age 22, born in
There is another GP there [at the medical clinic] but she knows my Mum. And that
makes me nervous talking to her about those things of things. (Aala, age 22, born
Most women expressed their concern about having a male doctor in regard to
I would prefer a female GP. If it was male GP I would feel awkward, physically and
emotionally, because he might ask me if I am married and judge me because I am
not. (Pina, age 18, born in Australia)
However, for just over half of the participants, access to contraception often
proved to be a diﬃcult task. This was attributed to the need to be secretive about
buying contraception, and the concern of judgment by family and the
10 International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
community if they found out. Some women explained that it was considered
unacceptable for Muslim women to buy contraception because of religious and
Women are not meant to get contraception and things. It is supposed to be men.
I would feel very uncomfortable if I had to buy contraception, especially near
where I live. (Lily, age 19, born in Australia)
Friends were also asked to provide contraception, especially to those who felt
uncomfortable accessing it themselves:
I could also ask my non-Muslim friends [for contraception]. They wouldn’t mind if
I asked them to buy some for me. (Alysia, age 19, born in Iraq)
For those who felt comfortable accessing contraception, the most common
places to buy condoms were from the supermarket, with the pill being a pre-
scribed medication from the pharmacy:
I used to be on the pill. I just went to my doctor and got a prescription. I can also
get the condoms from the supermarket [...] I have no worries doing that. (Kaleese,
age 22, born in Australia)
It appeared that some young women did not have diﬃculties in accessing
health care whereas others did. Although cultural and religious norms played
a crucial role in health care access for some women, others had no diﬃculties
Sexual Health, Religion, and Culture
Among participants, there were mixed attitudes toward their sexual health
knowledge and varying attitudes toward their sexual health needs. These
diﬀerences were attributed to participants’ attitudes about balancing the
values and expectations of their religion and cultures. Most participants
expressed their desire to have been exposed to sexual health education in
high school, as they acknowledged the importance of preventative health
Although my religion says I do not need to know about sexual health before having
sex, I think it should be taught because girls are still going to do that stuﬀ [...]It
could prevent a lot of mistakes from happening. (Ramsha, age 24, born in Iran)
Meldrum et al. 11
One woman mentioned that her parents would disapprove of the sexual edu-
cation she had in high school:
I wouldn’t tell my parents what I was taught at school. They wouldn’t like it. That’s
why sometimes it can be hard to combine my religion and culture in Australia.
(Alysia, age 19, born in Iraq)
However, a few women expressed a sense of appreciation at not being
exposed to sexual health education in high school:
I was never taught anything that we weren’t supposed to know. I understand why
people may ﬁnd it hard to balance it all, but I don’t because I know what is right
and wrong for me. (Trish, age 19, born in Fiji)
Two participants who attended a secular school only expressed appreciation
for being exposed to sexual health education, making no mention of a lack of
cultural or religious sensitivity:
I am glad that I learnt all about sex health and stuﬀ. I guess if my parents didn’t
want me to learn about it all, then they wouldn’t have sent me to a government
school. (Aala, age 25, born in Australia)
Our ﬁndings revealed the juxtaposition between women who appreciated
being taught about sex education and those who were not. These attitudes
arose out of diﬀerent experiences, social attitudes, and religion.
Our ﬁndings identiﬁed speciﬁc areas of concern regarding sexual health know-
ledge among the young Muslim women in Australia, as well as issues limiting
their access to, or use of, sexual health services. Our article contributes to
knowledge about the lived experiences of young Muslim women in Australia
regarding sexual health and the diﬃculties they have balancing the inﬂuences
of religion and culture on their sexual health needs. Basing on the cultural
sensitivity theory of Leininger,
we contend that there is a need to acknow-
ledge that cultural backgrounds of young women play a crucial role in the
construction of their sexual health knowledge and need.
We have discussed
this in our ﬁndings. We argue that the knowledge gained from this study could
be used to inform the development of culturally sensitive sexual health ser-
by contributing to the understanding of the needs and barriers young
Muslim women in Australia face regarding their sexual health. We also con-
tend that the knowledge gained from our study may be applicable to young
Muslim women living elsewhere.
12 International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
The young women obtained their knowledge from various sources. Some
of these sources are generally considered reliable, such as school programs
and magazines. However, some participants relied on information from their
friends, which increases the likelihood of misinformed information being
In addition, our ﬁndings show that women who attended a
secular high school received sexual health education that could be con-
sidered comprehensive. However, those who attended an Islamic school
experienced little or no sexual health education, apart from basic health
education. Their lower levels of knowledge regarding STIs and contraception
conﬁrmed the studies of Caruthers et al.
and Newman et al.
the connection between the commitment to traditional roles and lower
sexual health knowledge.
With limited access to information about contraception and other sexual
health issues, young Muslim women who do engage in premarital sex are thus
considered more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Our ﬁndings
support existing literature that promotes the importance of sex education as a
preventative strategy, particularly in a classroom environment.
Physical access to sexual health services was not seen as an issue among
many participants; however, issues such as conﬁdentiality and the gender of
doctors were often remarked. Although conﬁdentiality legislation exists in
Australia, there is still some hesitation from young Muslim women, and this
was reﬂected in our ﬁndings. For example, one woman expressed her concern
regarding her family doctor discussing her sexual health with her mother. This
is considered a serious concern by some young Muslim women as there might
be negative consequences as a result of the inﬂuence of their religion and
Additionally, our ﬁndings support the barriers to contraception that Al
Khudairi and Yasmeen
identiﬁed in their study of Muslims living in Perth
and Newman et al.’
study of Assyrian and Karen women in Sydney. These
highlight physical access and the existence of socially unacceptable behaviors,
such as using contraception and having premarital sexual activities.
graphics of young Muslim women appeared to be a determinant, in regard to
areas where high numbers of Muslim communities live. For example, one par-
ticipant who lives in such an area explained how the condom packets in her local
mall are hidden similar to cigarette packets. Such experiences may not only
make access to contraception diﬃcult and uncomfortable, but it may also act
as a deterrent among young Muslim women, as feelings of guilt and shame are
endorsed. Premarital sex is often a forbidden and particularly sensitive issue
among Muslims due to Islamic doctrines and cultural traditions.
any diﬃculty in obtaining contraception in Australia may not only make things
more diﬃcult, but can lead young Muslim women to engage in sexual activities
without adequate contraception. This ﬁnding highlights the struggle some
Muslim women may face in balancing the inﬂuences of Islam and Muslim and
Meldrum et al. 13
Australian cultures. Most Australian health care services would promote the use
of contraception for young women, whereas this is evidently deemed as inappro-
priate according to some of the young women in relation to their culture and/or
Sexual health clinics exist throughout Australia.
However, as our research
identiﬁes, the low conﬁdence levels among Muslim women and the stigma asso-
ciated with accessing these services highlights the need for an increase and
improvement in support services available for Muslim women in Australia.
Rawson and Liamputtong,
in their research with young Vietnamese people
in Melbourne, suggest that “provision of sexual health services must acknow-
ledge the speciﬁc needs of ethnically diverse young people” (p75). Based on the
cultural sensitivity theory,
we contend that this is applicable for young Muslim
women living in Australia as these young women are also bounded by certain
Additionally, the participants mentioned that creating supportive groups
where Muslim women can learn more about sexual health would be beneﬁcial.
This suggestion reﬂected the cultural sensitivity theory devised by Leininger,
which could be used by service providers and support organizations to improve
their understandings of the inﬂuence Islamic beliefs and Muslim culture can
have on the sexual health of young Muslim women. However, it must be
noted that conﬁdentiality may be compromised in a group setting and fears of
participants’ personal information being exposed may also be an issue in sup-
Apart from the results demonstrating low levels of sexual health knowledge
among the women, the ﬁndings highlight the sensitive nature of learning such
information, particularly in regard to parental and cultural expectations.
Our ﬁndings contradict literature that suggests sex education should remain
secularized and homogenous, as the inﬂuence of religion and culture is evidently
signiﬁcant and must not be ignored.
It is clear from the experiences of some
participants that exposure to contradictory teachings and cultures increases the
likelihood of confusion and misunderstanding of their own sexual health. The
addition of these ﬁndings to Halstead and Resis’s
study highlights the import-
ance of acknowledging the inﬂuence of religion and culture with regard to sexual
In addition, as Newman et al.
found in their study, our ﬁndings highlight
the connection between a lack of sexual health knowledge, unreliable sources of
knowledge, and barriers surrounding access to sexual health resources and/or
services. In order for young Muslim women to have optimal sexual health out-
comes, it is vital that they are aware of available sexual health services. We
argue, as McMichael
and Couch et al.
contend, that this could provide
empowerment to young women to deal with their sexual health needs better.
Additionally, our ﬁndings suggest that some young Muslim women feel com-
fortable and conﬁdent when accessing sexual health services. The importance of
14 International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
cultural sensitivity theory
has been conﬁrmed by our ﬁndings, which could
lead to the promotion of culturally and religiously sensitive sexual health ser-
vices for young Muslim women in Melbourne and elsewhere.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conﬂicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The authors received no ﬁnancial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication
of this article.
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16 International Journal of Health Services 0(0)
Rebecca Meldrum is currently working in health promotion at Neami National.
She has over 5 years’ experience in health promotion, public health and com-
munity development. Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Public
Health (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts in Gender, Sexuality and Diversity. She
has a keen interest in public health research and how it can inform health service
Pranee Liamputtong is a professor in the Department of Public Health, La Trobe
University. Her main interests are in the areas of sexual and reproductive health
of immigrant and refugee women, and women in Asia. She has conducted exten-
sive research in these areas both in Australia and in Asia. She has written exten-
sively in sexual and reproductive health. She is also a qualitative researcher and
has written many texts relating to qualitative methodology.
Dennis Wollersheim is a lecturer in health information management at the
Department of Public Health, La Trobe University. He has 15 years experience
as a leader in a grassroots, peer leadership social change organisation. He has his
interest in the use of technology in health and the health of refugees. He has led a
successful Wii intervention for older women in Melbourne, Australia and spear-
headed the idea of using mobile phones for peer support among refugees. He has
also written a number of papers on these issues.
Meldrum et al. 17