KUCHING: Sex education is the best protection, new National Population and Family Development Board studies show.
It found non-schoolgoing teens in Sabah and Sarawak had the highest pregnancy rates.
Last year, 4,795 cases of teenage pregnancies were reported in Sabah and 3,395 were reported in Sarawak.
In a subsequent survey conducted in Sarawak, 38% of school dropouts between 10 and 19 years old admitted to having experienced sexual activity, compared to just 12% of those who made it to university.
"These findings are a big step forward for Malaysia in showing us that education is clearly protective," said Salfra Shameem, who is a United Nations Population Fund programme advisor based in Kuala Lumpur.
"As human beings, the fear is, Kalau dia tahu, dia mahu (If they know, they will want). That's the automatic reaction we'll need to change.
“The reality is, if you know, then you'll also know how to prevent the risks that you should not be taking."
Sex education is about empowerment, Shameem said.
Universiti Malaya chartered psychologist Prof Low Wah Yun agreed, adding gender equality was also important.
"The findings are not just for teachers, parents and children; it is also for community leaders and religious authorities.
“It is not just for girls but also for boys about respecting girls," Low said.
They were speaking to reporters after a "Teenage Sexual Health and Risks" seminar here.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun told the seminar that while the findings were worrying and eye-opening, they also offered solutions that could lead the way forward.
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