Fewer Indonesian teenagers value virginity

JAKARTA - The latest government survey has found that the number of Indonesian teenagers who think virginity is important is declining.

According to the 2012 Indonesian Health and Demography Survey (SDKI), which was released in September, only 77 per cent of female respondents and 66 per cent of male respondents said it was important to keep their virginity before marriage.

The figures are much lower compared to those in the 2007 survey where 99 per cent of female and 98 per cent of male teenagers interviewed said they valued virginity.

The National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) said the findings were alarming, highlighting the fact that most Indonesian teens had limited knowledge of sex and reproductive health.

The 2012 survey on reproductive health among youth was jointly conducted by the BKKBN, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) and the Health Ministry. It involved 8,902 female and 10,980 male teenagers aged between 15 and 24.

It found that female teenagers (38 per cent) who had sexual intercourse did not know why they did it, saying "it just happened". Meanwhile, most of the male respondents (57 per cent) said they were driven by curiosity.

"The youngsters' knowledge on puberty and reproductive health is inadequate. This is shown by the fact that more than 38 per cent of teenage girls in the survey stated the reason why they had sexual intercourse was that 'it just happened'," BKKBN deputy for prosperous families and family empowerment Sudibyo Alimoeso told reporters on Thursday.

"The rising fertility rate among teens was most probably caused by a lack of knowledge on reproductive health, which of course affects the rising maternal mortality rate as well," he added.

Flourisa Juliaan, BKKBN's head of research and development, said it was necessary to provide teenagers with adequate sex education.

"Not only because teen's biological conditions aren't ready for child birth, but also because having a child at a very young age affects their futures, especially teen girls," she said.

The SDKI survey also found the number of mothers aged between 15 to 19 years had risen to 48 per 1,000 women in 2012, from 35 per 1,000 in 2007.

"It's very shameful to see the data as most teens have not received the right information on reproductive health from their mothers. Moreover, the era of free information can easily shift teens' views on puberty and reproduction," she went on.

According to the data, 61 per cent female respondents said they received information on reproductive health from their teachers, 29 per cent from their friends, and only 18 per cent from their mothers. Male respondents said they mostly received such information from their peers (48 per cent), followed by teachers with 46 per cent.

"This shows how information on reproductive health within the family is still considered taboo, when in fact parents hold the key to guiding their children to tell them the right information on the issue," she said.

Sudibyo said for four years the agency had initiated a programme that provided reproductive health counseling centers for high school students in 12 provinces, including Jakarta, Central Java, West Java, East Java, Banten, North Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara.