Sexuality education, support still needed

Sexuality education, support still needed

I am puzzled by Mrs Shelen Ang's letter ("Underage sex: Tell teens they are worth the wait"; yesterday), wherein she argues that the increase in underage sex "is not an issue of sexual liberalisation or promiscuity" and the fall in teenage births "is not an issue of contraception or health education".

Monday's reports ("Underage sex more common, say social workers" and "Teen births drop to 20-year low") show that more teenagers are sexually active and an increasing number find it normal to have sex before marriage, while the fall in teenage births can be attributed to teenagers using contraceptives when they engage in sexual intercourse.

So while there is truth in Mrs Ang's conclusion that teenagers' sense of their own value and self-worth is important in lowering the number of teenagers being sexually active, to dismiss the role of contraception, health education and sexual liberalisation in the trends highlighted is dangerous and irresponsible.

Mrs Ang and Focus on the Family preach abstinence.

While there is no doubt that abstinence is the surest way to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), there is no guarantee that everyone who undergoes abstinence programmes will abstain from sex.

It is the group that chooses to be sexually active that we should be concerned about. Without proper knowledge of the use of contraception, they are at risk of getting pregnant or being infected with STDs.

What we need is a more robust sexuality education package, compared with what is currently taught in schools, and more avenues our teenagers can turn to for support.

As Dr Carol Balhetchet has mentioned, the increase in the awareness of contraception and safe sex is not coming from parents or from schools, where sexuality education is being taught. It is coming from community groups that run outreach programmes or from the Internet, peers or medical professionals.

We need to understand that we will not be able to prevent our teenagers from being sexually active even though we would want them to wait.

Yet, to leave them ignorant about these matters is irresponsible.

To ensure that our teenage pregnancy numbers remain low and to reduce the number of STD infections, we need a more robust and more open sexuality education curriculum and support structure for our teens.

This article was first published on February 13, 2015.
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