Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 183–186 | Cite as

Providing for the Sexual Health Needs of Canadian Immigrants

The Experience of Immigrants from Iran
  • Eleanor Maticka-TyndaleEmail author
  • Khosro Refaie Shirpak
  • Maryam Chinichian



Sexual health is increasingly understood as an integral part of health. In Canada, education for sexual health is delivered predominantly in middle and secondary school. What of adults who immigrate to Canada from countries where sex education is not delivered to youth? This paper explores the needs and experiences of one such group of Canadian immigrants: those from Iran.


Ten married male and 10 married female immigrants from Iran living in a midsized Canadian city were recruited using snowball sampling and participated in qualitative interviews. The sample varied in age, education level, duration of marriage, and stay in Canada.


Participants addressed three themes: experiences accessing information and health services, necessary content of information, and preferred ways of providing sexual health information and services. Key barriers to accessing and using sexual health services, experienced by all interviewees, regardless of the length of time they were in Canada, included language, cultural misunderstandings, embarrassment, long waits, and limited time that physicians spent with patients. Examples were provided of misunderstandings and inappropriate or even offensive questions or suggestions made by health practitioners who were unfamiliar with patients’ cultural norms related to sexuality. Participants believed their needs and questions were different from their Canadian counterparts and wanted a confidential, linguistically and culturally friendly source of information such as a website in the Farsi language.


More attention needs to be paid to developing public health and medical services related to sexual health that take account of the cultural diversities represented in the Canadian population.

MeSH terms

Immigrants health services health education sexuality 



On considère de plus en plus la santé sexuelle comme faisant partie intégrante de la santé. Au Canada, l’éducation à la santé sexuelle se donne principalement au premier et au deuxième cycles de l’école secondaire. Qu’en est-il des adultes qui immigrent au Canada en provenance de pays où les jeunes ne reçoivent aucune éducation sexuelle? Nous analysons ici les besoins et l’expérience d’un tel groupe d’immigrants au Canada: les Iraniens.


À l’aide d’un sondage cumulatif, nous avons recruté 10 hommes mariés et 10 femmes mariées émigrés d’Iran vivant dans une ville canadienne de taille moyenne et nous les avons fait participer à des entretiens en profondeur. L’âge, le niveau d’instruction, la durée du mariage et la durée du séjour au Canada variaient au sein de l’échantillon.


Les participants ont discuté de trois thèmes: leur expérience de l’accès à l’information et aux services de santé, la pertinence de l’information reçue, et leurs préférences quant au mode de prestation de l’information et des services de santé sexuelle. Les principaux obstacles à l’accès et à l’utilisation des services de santé sexuelle, vécus par toutes les personnes interrogées quelle que soit la durée de leur séjour au Canada, étaient la langue, les malentendus culturels, l’embarras, les longues attentes et le temps limité que les médecins consacrent à leurs patients. On nous a donné des exemples de malentendus et de questions ou de suggestions incongrues, ou même offensantes, formulées par des professionnels de la santé qui ignoraient les normes culturelles de ces patients en matière de sexualité. Les participants étaient convaincus d’avoir des besoins et des questions différents de ceux de leurs concitoyens et auraient voulu avoir une source d’information confidentielle adaptée à leurs besoins linguistiques et culturels, par exemple un site Web en persan.


Il faudrait s’efforcer d’élaborer des services médicaux et de santé publique en santé sexuelle qui tiennent compte de la diversité culturelle de la population canadienne.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Pan American Health Organization, Promotion of Sexual Health: Recommendations for Action. Proceedings of regional consultation convened by PAHO/WHO in collaboration with the World Association for Sexology in Antigua, Guatemala, May 19–22, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Weaver AD, Byers ES, Sears HA, Cohen JN, Randall HES. Sexual health education at school and at home: Attitudes and experiences of New Brunswick parents. Can J Human Sexuality 2002;11(1):19–31.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boyce W, Doherty M, Fortin C, MacKinnon D. Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study: Factors Influencing Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviours. Toronto, ON: Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, 2003.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Barrett M. Sexuality education in Canadian schools: An overview in 1994. Can J Human Sexuality 1994;3:199–208.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Health Canada. Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, Ottawa, ON: Population and Public Health Branch, Health Canada, 2003.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Byers SE, Sears HA, Voyer SD, Thurlow JL, Cohen JN, Weaver, AD. An adolescent perspective on sexual health education at school and at home: I. High school students. Can J Human Sexuality 2003;12:1–17.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Byers SE, Sears HA, Voyer SD, Thurlow JL, Cohen JN, Weaver, AD. An adolescent perspective on sexual health education at school and at home: I. Middle school students. Can J Human Sexuality 2003;12:19–33.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Shirpak KHR, Chinichian M, Maticka-Tyndale E. Providing Sexual Health Services to Immigrants from Muslim Countries. Guelph Sexuality Conference. June 13–15, 2005. Guelph, Ontario, Canada, 2005.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Population Action International. In This Generation: Sexual & Reproductive Health Policies for a Youthful World. Washington, DC, 2002.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Amado, LE. Sexual and Bodily Rights as Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A Workshop Report (Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) — New Ways). Istanbul, Turkey: New Ways (21), 2003.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Darvishpour M. Immigrant women challenge the role of men: How the changing power relations within Iranian families in Sweden intensify family conflict after marriage. J Comparative Fam Studies 2002;33(2):271.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lipson, JG. The health and adjustment of Iranian immigrants. Western J Nurs Res 1992;14(1):10–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Aswad B, Bilge B (Eds). Family and Gender Among American Muslims: Issues Facing Middle Eastern Immigrants and Their Descendents. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Beckett C, Macey M. Race, gender and sexuality: The oppression of multiculturalism. Women’s Studies Int Forum 2001;24(3/4):309–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Buijs G. Migrant Women: Crossing Boundaries and Changing Identities. Berg: Oxford, 1993.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ghaffarian S. The acculturation of Iranian immigrants in the United States and the implications for mental health. J Soc Psychol 1998;138:645–54.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hanassab S, Tidwell R. Sex roles and sexual attitudes of young Iranian women: Implications for cross-cultural counseling. Soc Behav Personality 1996;24(2):185–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hendrickx K, Lodewijckx E, van Royen P, Denekens J. Sexual behaviour of second generation Moroccan immigrants balancing between traditional attitudes and safe sex. Patient Educ Couns 2002;47:89–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Killoran M. Good Muslims and “bad Muslims”, “good” women and feminists: Negotiating identities in northern Cyprus (or, the condom story). Ethos 1998;26(2):183–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Phalet K, Hagendoorn L. Personal adjustment to acculturative transitions: The Turkish experience. Int J Psychol 1996;31:131–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jocelyn D, Rana J, Iman M, Bonnie S. The sexuality and reproductive health of young people in the Arab countries and Iran. Reproductive Health Matters 2005;13(25):49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Beiser M. The health of immigrants and refugees in Canada. Can J Public Health 2005;96(Suppl. 2):S32–S44.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Leduc N, Proulx M. Patterns of health service utilization by recent immigrants. J Immigrants Health 2004;6(1):15–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Newbold KB, Danforth J. Health status and Canada’s immigrant population. Soc Sci Med 2003;57:1981–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    McDonald JT, Kennedy S. Insight into the ‘healthy immigrant effect’: Health status and health service use of immigrants in Canada. Soc Sci Med 2004;59:1613–27.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    See for example: developed by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada in collaboration with the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (Accessed April 3, 2007).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale
    • 1
    Email author
  • Khosro Refaie Shirpak
    • 1
  • Maryam Chinichian
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Justice & Sexual Health Research LabUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

Personalised recommendations