Free Malaysia Today
By Jeswan Kaur
KUALA LUMPUR | Oct 29, 2012
The government’s misguided ‘inhibition’ on the issue of sex education has backfired, with teenage pregnancies in the country intensifying.
For over a decade, the Education and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministries kept dragging their feet in implementing sex education in schools, citing one too many excuses.
In April 2010, deputy education minister Puad Zarkashi told Dewan Negara that sex education was unnecessary in Malaysian schools and would not be introduced as a specific subject.
“Social and reproductive health studies is taught under health education and encompasses curricula of a wide variety of subjects such as biology, science, additional science, moral studies and religious education.
“As such, there is no need for a specific subject called sex education,” Puad had justified.
That explains the never ending attempts to ‘shield’ students from the topic of sex education; non-governmental organisations like Malaysian Aids Council wanting to hold talks in schools were warned against talking about condoms or anything else that would arouse the students interest in sex.
So ‘inhibited’ is the government of the day that in February it via the Home Ministry imposed an indefinite ban on the sale of the book ”Where Did I Come From?”, a classic children’s book by Peter Mayle that talks about the facts of life.
The book, first published in 1984 tells of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, have sex and go on to become happy parents.
Then, Home Ministry deputy secretary-general Abdul Rahim Mohd Radzi said the ministry was acting under Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the fear being that the book’s content could pose a danger to the community’s “moral”.
But as they say “one can run but cannot hide”, 10 months later the Education Ministry is now facing a grave situation with teen pregnancies among girls below the age of 16 escalating.
As always, instead of looking into the root of a problem, the ministries concerned have decided to “treat” the symptoms instead by deciding to introduce a pilot programme to teach pupils aged 12 and 15 of the dangers of out-of-wedlock sex.
Inhibition or plain stubbornness
As far as the Education and Women, Family and Community Development Ministries are concerned, abstinence i.e. not discussing this topic is the best way to ‘protect’ the young, a folly it has now come to realise.
But now, faced with the rising numbers in teen pregnancies among girls below the age of 16, the authorities are at a lost as to how to deal with this issue, resulting in a knee jerk reaction by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
Headed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has concocted a programme to teach Year Six and Form Three pupils the risks and dangers of sex.
The pilot programme which has been made part of the school curriculum, intends to get the message across through the Reproductive Health and Social programme.
The programme, based on the Reproductive Health Adolescents module of the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, bears the responsibility of curbing teen pregnancies and birth which stood at 6,000 involving girls under the age of 16 since 2000.
“Based on data of the National Registration Department, a total of 6,820 pregnancies and births involving girls below 16 were recorded between 2000 and Oct 9 2012,” the ministry said in a written reply to Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam) in Parliament.
Piecemeal attempt not helpful
This programme which kicked off last month in selected schools nationwide raises a host of questions, ranging from the target age to the real objective.
Also, just how ‘prepared’ are the 67 teachers who have been trained to teach the 1,360 students on the hazards and risks of unmarried sex during the programme held between Sept 8 and 10?
One of the reasons why sex education never took off in schools was attributed to the uneasiness faced by the teachers in talking about a subject they felt shy about.
What ‘miracle’ have these ministries performed to turn our ever shy teachers into bold educators who are prepared to ‘call a spade a spade’?
On the contrary, the worry is that such piecemeal attempt is not the answer or solution to a social issue that has now become worry for the nation, in view of the many cases of baby dumping.
Did both ministries seek ideas from women’s groups on how best to tackle the problem of teenage pregnancies?
Or have they for that matter studied the scenario in other countries and how the issue of teenage pregnancies is dealt with?
How confident is the government that this programme will bring down the numbers of teenage pregnancies involving girls below the age of 16?
And what made the relevant ministries certain that only pupils aged 12 and 15 would if ever, benefit from this programme?
The issue involved in a serious one and the tryout far from convincing; no wonder then children are looking elsewhere for ‘answers’.