NGO says need for comprehensive sexuality education in Malaysia

An NGO providing family planning services has offered its assistance to Malaysia to carry out sexuality education sessions in schools.

International Planned Parent­hood Federation (IPPF) East and South-East Asia and Oceania regional director Nora Murat says that if the Government cannot do it for one reason or another, many NGOs are able to assist the Govern­ment.

"We need to be given the space to do the work," she says.

Nora says that, currently, NGOs do not have access to conduct comprehensive sex education in schools or tertiary institutions and that sex education is not taught in its entirety in classes across the nation.

What is viewed as sex education is actually a combination of two or three topics related to the physical development of children and ­adolescent, development of the reproductive and fertility system and also sex within the Islamic context, she says, quoting a 2011 Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) study.

She says sex education is much broader with topics relating to the physical development of the child, the reproductive system, sexual intercourse and subsequent childbirth, pregnancy control, the aspect of dealing with or judging of sexual advances from men to women, the spread of sexually transmitted ­disease and also illicit sex.

The study also mentions that "90 per cent of the respondents agree that sex education has not been taught in Malaysians schools and the informal information given by most of the teachers is vague".

Nora says that sex cannot be a taboo subject because children need to be protected.

She points out that cases of unwanted pregnancies and baby dumping continue to occur in Malaysia while sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise. Indeed, The Star recently reported that around 100 babies were dumped each year, according to the Women, Family and Commu­nity Development Ministry.

Nora also says that HIV cases have increased from 3,393 cases in 2014 to 3,517 cases last year; gonorrhoea cases have increased from 1,419 in 2014 to 1,769 last year; while syphilis cases have increased from 1,617 in 2014 to 1,689 last year.

The Government also needs to wake up to the reality that those exploring sex are getting younger, she says.

"There is a need for comprehensive sexuality education, for the young to take care of themselves and make the right choices," she says in an interview during the Bali conference.

She says that teachers too need to be trained to teach the subject or they may not know how to answer students' questions.

Last year, the IPPF provided 17 million family planning services in 26 countries. Services include ­sexual education of youths 18 and below, free contraceptives, pap smears, pregnancy test, STDs awareness and HIV counselling.

United Nation Population Fund Commodity Security Branch chief Jagdish Upadhyay says that providing sexuality education is the best asset that any government can give its young people to empower them for a better future.

He points out that a girl aged 15 now, for instance, will be 30 years old in 15 years' time and how empowered she is then depends on policy makers.

"If she is empowered, she will take care of the family, contribute to society and her children will be educated.

"Do you want that or do you want her to be a recipient (of welfare)? It is a choice that the Govern­ment has to make," he says, referring to how a lack of sexuality education can lead to unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and rob youths of a better quality of life.

Jagdish says the development offered to youths should be inclusive and sustainable and should not just be about economic ­development.

He also says that young people's participation must be made more of a priority during policy discussions.

Jagdish says that Malaysia has done reasonably well in family planning and it should step out and share its experience with other countries.

He says that contraceptive use has gone up in Malaysia but ­inequalities in distribution still exist, and this should be addressed.