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Poor Sex Education Perpetuates Painful Social Issues

“I didn’t know” – a phrase no person should utter when it comes to sexual assault. Ignorance poses threats and places society in dangerous environments, which should not occur. There is strength that comes with sexual education. Being unaware of the tremendous power sexual education holds, has caused an increase of acts including but not limited to; sexual harassment, child marriages and baby dumping at an alarming rate.  

The Women Aid Organisation (WAO) reported that between January to mid April 2020, there were a total of 73 sex-related crimes including rape, incest and sexual harassment[1].

Between 2013 and 2017, findings from the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) revealed that there is a total of 1,218 reported sexual harassment cases, with 79% involving female victims, 21% involving male victims, many of whom were children[2].  

What about the plethora of cases that have gone unreported? 

The lack of awareness and education on sexual matters have also increased the number of baby dumping in the country. In 2020, a baby is found to be dumped every two to three days, and the majority of them – over 50%, don’t make it [3]

Those who survive, end up in critical conditions. This stems from having little to no knowledge on the basics of sex education that leads to young girls having unprotected sex. Further findings from OrphanCare revealed that an average of 100 babies are abandoned yearly[4]. With rising cases such as these, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim has called for additional baby hatches. The OrphanCare Foundation is an example of a changemaker who has set up three baby hatches in partnership with KPJ hospital and is set to build more[5]

Ignorance And Poverty Perpetuates Sex-Related Problems

It is without a doubt that poverty is a problem that creates more problems. The lack of knowledge and access to credible information about reproductive health is significantly associated with poverty[6]

The effects of poverty are tremendous, and have developed into a lifestyle for many. In most cases poverty withholds care and places women and children as easy targets for sexual violence [7]

Low income prevents quality education, where people learn that sexual harassment and rape are not okay. This stirs up normalization of taking matters such as sexual harassment, rape and other violent acts lightly. 

Source: Unsplash

UNESCO defines sexual education as teaching and learning different aspects of sexuality to empower young people. The importance is further highlighted based on a human rights approach, to understand one’s own rights and to respect the rights of others, while standing up for those who have been stripped of their rights [8].

Sexual assault is having sexual contact without a person’s consent which includes molestation and rape. Women held against their will for sexual acts can fight back, as Malaysia classifies this as rape [9]

Depriving sex education increases the chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies [10]. It ceases the privilege girls have to choose sexual relationships wisely and disregards any form of respect for sexual relationships.  They are denied healthy sexual relationships, causing damages in aspects of health and individual rights [11]

 The Extent Of Sex Education In Malaysian Schools 

Currently, different interpretations of sex education are being taught in Malaysia.  Instead of calling it like it is ‘Sex Education’, the Malaysian government continues hiding behind names such as Moral Education, Islamic studies and more [12]. The syllabus covers the basics of touching, with sources saying the curriculum is vague. 

In rural areas and schools, receiving basic education is a struggle due to limited budget and human resource limitations and the lack of resources and training for teachers[12]. School instructional supplies such as libraries and media centres that promote education are lacking. In most cases, there is also a shortage of teachers in rural areas as many prefer to teach in urban schools[13] With preexisting limitations on rural schools and the lack of urgency and emphasis on sex education, the subject is, in many cases avoided or ignored.

https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/living/2020/09/13/human-writes-malaysia039s-education-system-is-failing-young-dropouts
Source: The Star

In Malaysia, most young people have access to education before they turn seven, which is why it’s important to introduce sex education at a young age while balancing appropriate teaching methods. 

According to Dr Lai Suat Yan, a lecturer of Gender Studies, sex education should be a  part of “the curriculum in the school system” and schools must not wait for non-profit organisations to do the job when only necessary [14]

This needs to be part of the curriculum in the school system rather than in an ad hoc manner when a women’s or a non-profit organisation manages to get the slots with a particular school to raise awareness on these subjects. – Dr Lai Suat Yan, Gender Studies lecturer[14]

Sex education gives members of society the opportunity to defend themselves when placed in a threatening environment. Education and information are constantly being updated, replacing previous learning [10]. As young ones grow, different topics are introduced, catering to development and health. 

Where do we go from here? 

Discussions on sex education should go beyond sexual reproduction, it should interlink elements of relationships. On an international level, the United Nations advocates that sex education should address the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. Because when it comes to ‘sex’ it is more than just physical and biological aspects. It’s supposed to be consensual, both mentally and physically [15]

Sex education teaches young people to make informed decisions about their sex life. It comprises topics that touch on puberty, contraception, family planning and so on which aims to reduce the risk of negative outcomes from sexual acts that are unplanned and unwanted pregnancy [16]

Source: Unsplash

Contrary to what a fraction of people in Malaysia believe, early sex education does not deprive the youth of their innocence. When the youth are taught properly on the subject, they are better equipped to make informed decisions on their sexual health.

The state on things in Malaysia is indeed alarming and the need to encourage our government to implement sex ed as part of the school syllabus is more important than ever. Treating sex as such a taboo does not help in any way as the statistic proves that the youth are in dire need of proper guidance on the subject. 

Malaysia has a long way to go to improve and ensure sufficient sexual education.  However, there are good samaritans who offer services and protection to those bearing  the brunt for the lack of sex education such as: 

  • Women’s Aid Organisation provides free services to women who are victims of violence. They also focus on social work and programmes that assist women and children. 
  • All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) is a non-profit organization that aids victims of violence irrespective of gender. Active in outreach and public education, AWAM seeks to educate society on Gender-based Violence.
  • The Ministry of Women Family and Community Development focuses on the rights of women and families, ensuring contribution and participation in the country. This ministry also seeks to preserve these rights without discrimination. 
  • Orphan Care Foundation provides support and assistance to those who require help with an unplanned pregnancy. Known for its 24-hour baby hatches, the foundation aims to protect children while ensuring their survival through adoption, counselling, baby hatches and deinstitutionalisation. 
  • PT Foundation works with five key affected populations such as drug users, sex workers, transgenders and people living with HIV.
  • MMICare Association is a non-profit that’s committed to the development of women and youth in Malaysia. They even held a girls camp in 2018 that educated participants on nutrition, hygiene, reproductive health and emotional health. 
  • Soroptimist Puberty Organising ToolKit (SPOT) is a movement providing comprehensive sexuality education through age-appropriate and culturally sensitive approaches. They are optimistic to remove embarrassment, stigma and fear around sex education.

This article was written by Andrea Nathalyn and edited by the Wiki Impact team. 

Explore Our Sources: 

  1. Women’s Aid Organisation. (2020). WAO Hotline & TINA Monthly Statistics (2020). Link
  2. The Asean Post Team. (2019). Is Malaysia Serious About Sexual Harassment? The Asean Post. Link
  3. The Star. (2020). Baby dumping a serious social concern in Malaysia. Link.  
  4. Orphan Care Foundation. (2021). Our Impact. Link.
  5. Free Malaysia Today. (2021). More ‘hatches’ needed to stop baby dumping, says Zaid. Link.
  6. BMC International Health in Human Rights. (2014). Community Perceptions in Rape and Child Sexual Abuse.  Link.
  7. Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. (2007). Poverty and Sexual Violence. Link.
  8. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2018). International technical guidance on sexual education. Link.
  9. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO). (2020). What is Rape and Sexual Assault. Link.
  10. Harvard School of Public Health. (2008). Sex Lies and Stereotypes. Link.
  11. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2018). International technical guidance on sexual education. Link.
  12. SAYS. (2020).  A Group Of Under 18s Are Demanding To Make Sex Ed Compulsory In Public Schools In Malaysia. Link 
  13. United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. (2017). Learning.  Link.
  14. New Straits Times. (2021). ‘Education, awareness are vital’. Link.
  15. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2016). Sexuality Education. Policy Brief 1. Link. 
  16. Quick Dr. (2020). Educating Your Teen About Sex- Do’s and Don’ts. Link

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