JAKARTA - Regina Tantri Tionaomi is among the many Jakarta teenagers who have never been taught about sexual and reproductive health.
The 12th grader in senior high school SMA 106 in East Jakarta said she and her peers usually found the answers by themselves to their questions about pregnancy and secondary sexual characteristics.
"A friend shared her anxiety over her small breasts and that she was too ashamed to talk about it with her parents. Others were curious whether someone could really get pregnant through unsafe sexual intercourse," she told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Regina, a member of the Independent Youth Alliance (ARI), said they could barely find sufficient information on the Internet which often directed them to porn sites.
"The teachers always blush when we ask them, which is unnecessary. It is important for us, teenagers, to know about our own reproductive systems and health so we will not abuse them."
Jakarta already has Gubernatorial Decree No. 31/2013 on reproductive health for teenagers which allows teenagers to receive education and services on reproductive health. However, the implementation of the policy in schools is still deficient.
Wahyu Murniningsih, deputy headmaster of SMA 42 in East Jakarta, said reproductive health education was integrated into biology, sociology and religion. Students could also learn about it in extracurricular courses from their counseling and guidance teachers.
"The material in biology class is limited to the basic competence as regulated in the curriculum. While in sociology teachers only give introduction on societal and moral and norms and sexual deviancies," she said.
She said it would be helpful if teachers could get comprehensive teaching material and guidance about sexual and reproductive health, so they could be more open when delivering the topic.
Activists voiced the urgent need to provide education on sexual and reproductive health to teenagers during a seminar held by the Women's Research Institute (WRI) in Kemang, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.
WRI executive director Sita Aripurnami said the high mortality rate of teen pregnancies called for the dissemination of sex and reproductive health education. She cited data from the Health Ministry in 2010 that teenagers accounted for 30 per cent of unwanted pregnancies and abortions nationwide.
This knowledge, she said, would help teenagers, who amount to 33 per cent of the population, to make the right decisions about their future. "Sex education does not encourage premarital sex, but explains the reproductive functions and how to stay healthy. Clueless teenagers can become teenaged mothers who are not ready for the responsibility," she said.
Sita said the struggle to get the topic onto the curriculum was still a long one, so her organisation tried to focus on empowering groups of teenagers, so they could provide peer consultation and take part in forums and the National Development Planning Meeting (Musrembang). The organisation is also working on producing educational material about sexual and reproductive health for teenagers.
Faiqoh, the national coordinator of ARI, said it was important to provide teens with comprehensive sexual education that included life skills and behaviour that were necessary to protect their future. "For example, students should be taught to say no if their boyfriends force them to have sex and children should know that other people should not touch their genitals," she said.
Taufiq Rohman, an official with the Jakarta Education Agency, said that his office had worked with NGOs that provide counseling at several junior and senior high schools.
"We also work together with community health centers [Puskesmas] and school clinics to inform students about reproductive health."