Sex, STIs and Islam

Around one million Muslims live in the Netherlands. The largest group are Dutch nationals from Turkish and Moroccan backgrounds. This is followed by Surinamese, Afghans and Iraqis. In total, some 6% of the Dutch population is Muslim. Read more about:

  • The influence of Islam on sex
  • The influence of the community (gossip)
  • Questions about sex
  • Hymen and its possible repair
  • Homosexuality, Islam and a pink imam


Culture and religion have a major influence on how people think about and perceive sexuality. According to the Koran, sex is permitted only within a marriage between a man and a woman. Neither girls nor boys are permitted to have sex before they get married and so must be virgins when they marry.

In practice, however, a distinction is often made between boys and girls. Boys are often thought to be tough if they have sex, but girls are often considered to be bad or promiscuous. Muslim men and boys often look for relationships and sexual contact outside of their community because to them it is important that their girls remain virgins. This means that there are double standards when it comes to sexuality.


People are gossiped about in every community; it makes no difference in which community you live. However, there are differences in how important a community is perceived to be and how much scope there is for an individual. In the Muslim culture, there is a greater focus on the group (= family), whereas in Dutch culture, the focus is more on the individual. In some cultures, family honour and the fear of dishonour are greater. In the Islamic culture, the honour of the family is very important and when they encounter difficult topics, people will ask themselves: ‘What does the family think?’

There is usually more respect for parents and older aunts and uncles. The fear of family members, neighbours or others questioning a person’s honour is generally greater than among the Dutch population. And love, sexuality and STIs are prime examples of subjects that can easily be linked to dishonour and gossiped about.


The Koran is clear that sex is permitted only within a marriage between a man and a woman, but what about French kissing? Is that permitted outside marriage? And what about oral sex? Young Muslims in particular have lots of questions about these subjects. You can find more information on the following sites:

Moroccan-Dutch youth

Turkish-Dutch youth



An intact hymen is said to be a sign that a woman is still a virgin. When the woman is deflowered on her wedding night, the hymen is supposed to tear and the woman is supposed to bleed. There are lots of myths surrounding the hymen. First of all, the hymen is not a membrane, but a ring of tissue that forms a kind of collar around the entrance to the vagina. And secondly, lots of women don’t bleed when they have sex for the first time.




Why do some girls and women pretend to bleed the first time they have sex?

Some girls and women actually want to bleed (for their husband or family) on their wedding night. They use one of a number of tricks to make themselves bleed, for example, they cut their finger or they have corrective surgery. They think that this proves that they are a virgin. If they don’t bleed, their family may think that they have already had sex and the woman or girl is afraid that their family or husband will punish her. But even if you don’t bleed, it can still be your first time: after all, not all women bleed the first time they have sex.

What is corrective surgery?

The term ‘corrective surgery’ is incorrect. The hymen is not actually a membrane that can be damaged, but a soft ring of tissue at the entrance to the vagina, and so there is nothing to repair. During ‘corrective surgery’, the ring of tissue at the entrance to the vagina is tightened. This increases the likelihood of a girl bleeding the first time she has sex because the entrance is narrower. Sometimes, a larger incision is made so that there is an even greater chance of the girl bleeding. But neither operation can give you certainty that you will bleed when the penis enters the vagina.


In spite of the fact that the Koran is much less explicit about homosexuality than the Bible for example, homosexuality in the Muslim community is a difficult topic. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the family of Lot is usually used as an argument. According to modern interpretations, this story, in which the inhabitants of these towns are punished, is not about homosexuality, but about loose sexual morals of both men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Although the Koran forbids anal sex, this applies to men and women alike. Nevertheless, anal sex does take place, both among men who have sex with men and with women, for example, as a way of preventing pregnancy. The difficulty with homosexuality appears to have more to do with culture than with religion.


Maruf Foundation

Maruf is an organization that aims to improve the position of muslim LHBTs living in the Netherlands and throughout the world. Maruf increases awareness regarding Islam, gender and sexual diversity. Maruf supports muslims in the acceptance process concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Pink imam

The fact that homosexuality and religion can co-exist is demonstrated by the South African, Mushin Hendricks. He is an imam and a homosexual. He is the founder of the Inner Circle, an organisation that enables sexual diversity to be discussed by the Muslim community and supports the Muslim LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). Read more on The Inner Circle and this ‘pink imam’.


picture-mushin hendricks

Secret Garden

Secret Garden is a foundation for the LGBT community with an ethnic-cultural background. The group with a Muslim background accounts for a large section of this target group. Secret Garden provides social, legal and psychological support and assistance to all of the LGBT community from the target group. An important aspect of their work concerns LGBT asylum seekers.