KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Malaysian youths should have access to sex education as a way to tackle statutory rape instead of allowing child marriages as a means of protection, several women activists said today.
The activists explained in a forum by Parti Amanah Negara’s women’s wing on statutory rape, that teenagers still do not have the mental capacity to deal with pregnancy out of wedlock, and what more marriage, despite reaching puberty.
“Sex education is actually reproductive health education. It educates for one to know herself, to learn the joy that Allah provides, and to manage it. It’s about love, and how to manage it,” said Rosmawati Zainal, the chief executive of shelter home Raudhatus Sakinah.
“It is for them to have healthy relationship, how they should carry their love … Kids do not understand how to manage love, what more manage their lives,” she added.
Rosmawati however admitted that many in the public are still unaware about sex education and associate it with negative connotations.
“It is not telling how to have sex, but how to prevent non-consensual relations, how to appreciate oneself … Loving is human nature, but you need to learn how to manage it,” she said.
Shareena Sheriff, a programme manager with women’s group Sisters in Islam, agreed with Rosmawati and said that it is important not to victimise rape victims.
“It’s not about the women, this not about trying to cover their disgrace, not for them to live their lives with less shame. It’s not her fault if she was raped,
“We have to concentrate on the perpetrators, not the victims,” Shareena said.
Earlier, Rosmawati shared her nearly 20 years of experience in managing a shelter home for women who are pregnant out of wedlock, many of whom were abandoned by their male partners.
“They do not know anything about life, even if they deliver the babies they would not know what to do,” she told the forum.
“Many felt they would never have got pregnant, and when it happens they don’t know how to deal with it. Those men with their sweet promises, they went missing in action.”
Lawyers Muhammad Faiz Fadzil and Ahmad Munawir Abdul Aziz in the panel also agreed that marriage is not the sole solution to statutory rape and pregnancy out of wedlock, suggesting that abortion may also be available although only under certain provisions.
There is limited data about child marriages in Malaysia, but it was previously reported that around 15,000 girls below the age of 19 are married in the country.
The issue entered media spotlight after Umno MP Datuk Shabudin Yahya said in Dewan Rakyat yesterday that marriage between those involved statutory rape could in fact help solve social problems.
He also defended existing provisions that allow minors to be married off as long as their parents or guardians seek permission from the Shariah Courts, after DAP MP Teo Nie Ching wanted the Child Sexual Offences Bill 2017 amended to also prohibit child marriages under 18.