Know your body

Studies: Teens lack sexual and reproductive health knowledge

POOR sexual and reproductive health knowledge among Malaysian teenagers needs to be addressed.

Both global and national reports have indicated a worrying lack of information which could lead to social problems such as teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Action must be taken to ensure our youths are provided with sufficient knowledge on the topic without shame or fear, in schools and at home, as such information will have a huge impact on their lives and those of others.

Proper disclosure of information and appropriate skills development training among schoolstudents, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) director-general Abdul Shukur Abdulah told StarEdu, should start from early adolescence.

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“It will empower the young with knowledge and skills to help them make wise choices and decisions regarding their reproductive and sexual health, and curb the increasing number of teen pregnancy and abortion cases in Malaysia,” he said.

The Education Ministry, as a means of tackling sexual harassment and bullying cases in educational institutions under their purview, has set up a special committee.

The committee, which is composed of eight individuals with different professional backgrounds, aims to improve procedures involving sexual harassment and bullying cases.

Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin said former education director-general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim had been appointed the chairman of the special committee.

The other individuals involved include former senior government officials, lecturers, counsellors, legal officers and representatives of non-governmental organisations, Radzi said in a social media post on May 19.

Coupled with the existing LPPKN modules made available through outreach programmes in schools and the Reproductive and Social Health Education (Peers) syllabus taught through the Physical and Health Education (PJK) subject, the special committee looks set to play an important role in strengthening Malaysia’s sexual and reproductive health education.

The case of the 15-year-old girl who was charged with murdering her newborn child in Terengganu early this year is a wake-up call for the country, sparking conversations over the need to provide the right resources and services, including psychological support for teenagers.

After her arrest on Feb 8, the teenager lodged a report that she had been a rape victim.

Although only 35%, or less than half of the 41,083 teen pregnancies recorded between 2017 and 2021, were cases out of wedlock, it is a matter worth paying attention to, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun told Parliament in a written response on Dec 22, last year.

More measures involving all stakeholders, including parents and the community, are needed if we are to reverse the worrying trend seen in recent studies.

A 2018 Unicef report titled “Report on the regional forum on adolescent pregnancy, child marriage and early union in South-East Asia and Mongolia” revealed that while it is difficult to determine what is driving the increase in adolescent birth rates in several countries in the region, including Malaysia, the reasons are likely due in part to the increasing sexual activity among young people, combined with limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.

This was also reflected in the Health Ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017: Key Findings from the Adolescent Health and Nutrition Surveys, which alarmingly found that among the 13- to 17-year olds who were surveyed, only 12% said they used condoms in practising safe sex – this is nine in 100 boys, and 16 in 100 girls.Both findings echo the results of the “Malaysian Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Survey”, which showed that Malaysian adolescents had inadequate knowledge of their sexual and reproductive health, and about contraceptives.

The Perspective Strategies survey was held between June and October 2016. — By SANDHYA MENON

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