Sex education is a must

OLIVIA MIWIL AND TEOH PEI YING


TUCKED in a police file somewhere is a statement recorded from a well-educated young woman who thought that a kiss could make her pregnant.

What she didn’t know, as she claimed after being caught abandoning a new-born baby, was that she could get pregnant by having sexual intercourse.

Federal police Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division assistant principal director Assistant Commissioner Ong Chin Lan said it might sound silly but that was the social reality in Malaysia.

Child sexual offence cases remained high in the country, where last year, there was an average of about five cases per day although not too long ago, in 2012, the average was eight cases per day.

Ong believed greater awareness of sex crimes was needed to increase vigilance against sexual predators, along with stronger laws as a deterrent for others, such as the newly passed Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017.

She also believed moral-based teachings needed to be enhanced along with the present academic-based curriculum, and that there was a need to take another look at the approach to sex education in schools.

The cases of young women dumping newborn babies also highlighted the crucial need for a more comprehensive syllabus on sex education.

In the last two weeks, two cases were recorded.

One was in Kuching, Sarawak, yesterday, where a newborn was found at an apartment garbage collection area, while the other was on March 30 in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah, where a college student and her boyfriend are now facing murder charges.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry recently revealed that 104 newborn babies were dumped last year, of whom 61 were found dead.

Ong said the case of the girl believing that a kiss could get her pregnant might not be the first or the last, and pinned it on the lack of early sex education by parents.

“The girl believed her mother that she could get pregnant if she was kissed by a man.

“Sex education is crucial and parents must communicate, and be sensitive and observant towards their children. It should not be a taboo to discuss sex with them,” Ong added.

There were also cases where mothers turned a deaf ear or even “closed an eye” to their children who are sexually abused for fear of losing their breadwinner and lover.

“I have come across such terrible cases, too,” she said of such betrayal by parents.

“They need to listen and trust their children apart from being open about the subject.”

Ong revealed there were very few child rape cases where the victims did not know their assailants.

“Most of the time, they know who raped them but are caught in a situation where it’s hard for them to speak up.”


Sex education in schools


As an alternative to sex education, the Education Ministry introduced the Reproductive and Social Health Education (PEERS) in secondary schools in 1989 and extended it to primary schools in 1994.

Sabah Education director Datuk Maimunah Suhaibul said the term “sex education” was not used because it was deemed a taboo to society and that the subjects were only taught verbally.

“The content of the curriculum is more to teaching the science of male and female reproductive systems, fertility and childbirth, and identifying and handling unwanted sexual attention,” she said.

Last year, Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said the PEERS content would be upgraded.

He said the upgrade would include equipping students with the knowledge to prevent them from falling victim to sexual harassment and abuse.

“Lessons on sex education can be carried out in the context of health and body awareness by focusing on safety aspects. Sometimes, they (children) are too friendly with strangers.”

Khair had also said sex education could also be revamped through school modules, adding that students were mostly aware of the dos and don’ts when it came to their bodies, but they could cave in to social pressure.

Seven topics had been proposed for the National Health Education Standards to expose students from kindergarten to adolescent level to minimum but essential content on sex education.

The topics include anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent development, identity, pregnancy and reproduction, sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV, as well as healthy relationship.


Starting them young



Early exposure to sex education could prevent children from becoming victims, according to the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team leader Dr Ng Su Fang of Likas Women and Children’s Hospital.

“It is natural for young children to listen to adults or family members.

“So, if they do not know what is wrong or right, they could fall victim to people who would take advantage of them.

“What is worse is when they are told to keep such things a secret and they can be considered lucky when other adults notice behavioural changes,” she said.

Dr Ng said it was important to detect such abuse cases early to protect the children physically and emotionally, besides the urgency to collect evidence, such as bodily fluids required to charge the culprits.

Sabah Taska Association vice-president Zubaidah Sidek said the growing concern about the high number of child sexual abuse cases had prompted some to introduce sex education in preschools.

She said there was no specific curriculum on the topic, but preschools were encouraged to teach children as young as 2 about the dos and don’ts when they came across a situation where they could be in danger.

“Among others, we instil the idea of gender difference during daily routines at school, whereby boys and girls bathe, and take afternoon naps separately.

“They are also being taught body areas which are meant to be private or not shown to anyone, as well as to tell if they are uncomfortable when being touched,” she said. Additional
reporting by Kelly Koh