KOTA KINABALU - Teenage pregnancy is becoming a growing concern in Sabah and the state plans to put in place strategies to address the issue.
One factor cited by State Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad was that females in the state were getting married at an early age.
Based on the latest Health Ministry statistics, she said 1,500 teenage girls got pregnant every month, with some having led to early marriages.
At least 25 per cent of the teenagers were not married, she said.
Jainab said the key focus should be on the lifestyle of young people, especially raising awareness on unsafe sex, and the strengthening of family institutions across the state.
Despite busy schedules kept by modern women, Jainab said they should not neglect their families especially children as in some cases teenagers indulged in unhealthy activities because of the lack of parental care and love.
"The ministry's efforts include setting up a centre to deal with problematic teens," she said, adding that studies showed there was an increase in the number of teens aged between 13 and 18 years having sex.
Sabah Women Action Resource Group (Sawo) president Winnie Wee said there was a need for the ministry to set up a committee to conduct an in-depth study on why teen pregnancies are increasing.
"Why is Sabah among the highest in Malaysia? If they have found the cause, then holistic approaches can be drawn up to prevent and ultimately solve the problem," she said.
She said that Sawo's own experience after visiting villages and schools was that either these teens were experimenting with sex or they were victims of rape and incest.
Neglect by parents, as well as unlimited Internet access are also contributing to the rise in teenage pregnancies, she added.
Wee said Sawo itself has been carrying out programmes to educate children and teenagers on dating.
"We teach them what is healthy dating. We let them discuss and let us know what they know about dating and issues such as this," she said, adding that such programmes should not only include teenagers but also parents and teachers.