ONCE again, disturbing news appeared: A 16-year-old boy claimed he had been sodomised by his father for six years (“Boy lodges sodomy report against dad”, The Star, June 28; online at bit.ly/star_rape). The boy claimed that his ordeal began when he was nine. To add salt to the wound, the dad who was supposed to guard him with his life threatened the boy with a sharp object whenever the boy wanted to report the heinous act.
I’m sure that for many who read the news, anger and sadness filled their hearts – but this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many such cases happen daily. They are not always reported because the victims could be unsure whether this is an act of love or if he or she is being subjected to something that will scar him or her for a lifetime.
Whatever said, the act will take its toll on the lives of these young people. In a country considered to be largely middle and upper-
middle class and that is a signatory to many international conventions on protecting children, the question one has to ask is “Why is sexual abuse and child grooming still so prevalent here in Malaysia?”
The sad reality is, despite making up a large percentage of the population in developing countries, including in Malaysia, adolescents have limited access to information on their sexual and reproductive health and are oblivious of their rights. They are unable to access complete and comprehensive sexuality education that is rights-based and includes explanations about good touch and bad touch. Access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, where available, is also not widely known by the younger population of this country.
The Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia recently launched a report on “Comprehensive Sexuality Education for Malaysian Adolescents”. The report found that despite the milestones achieved by Malaysia in the area of sexual reproductive health, and adoles-cents and comprehensive sexuality education, there are still many more issues surrounding the young today that need to be addressed, such as teenage pregnancies, sexual violence and child sexual grooming.
A curriculum that is based on abstinence instead of informed choice, a lack of parental and family support compounded by the lack of a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism, untrained teachers and a lack of political willpower are among the factors that continue to make this agenda farfetched despite being debated for decades now.
Depriving young people of access to information on reproductive health rights results in more of them falling victim to prowling perpetrators who are constantly looking out for vulnerable victims. A small fraction has come out to report these incidences; however, our aim should not be just to bring perpetrators to justice but also to prevent any more individuals from becoming emotionally and psychologically scarred for a lifetime by burying a dark secret.
In order to meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of our young people and reduce sexual violence towards children in the country, effective measures must be taken to create a more inclusive healthcare and education system.
A comprehensive curriculum, support system, policies, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and strategic collaboration needs to be in place to bridge the gap and keep to one of the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals of “leaving no one behind”. (Sustain-able Development Goals are a UN-led call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity; there are 17 goals.)
As such, we should all work hand-in-hand to consolidate our efforts and work towards addressing these issues in a strategic manner.
In the past, many individuals and groups that advocated on this matter have been accused of talking about something that is regarded as controversial and taboo in our society. The question that we should all ask ourselves is, “Is allowing another child to be sexually abused or groomed by someone who is supposed to be the person the child trusts most better than providing young people with access to information that will empower them to know their rights?”
We applaud the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for taking various steps in implementing sex education for young people. This is definitely a step towards ensuring that sexual and reproductive health rights are made available and is easily accessed by every young person in our country.
This is an important measure in ensuring that our children will be able to make informed choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health rights and make healthy, safe and responsible choices in the future. However, it is important that the magnitude of importance of the matter should not only escalate when another child comes out to make a police report. The agenda should be expedited in all aspects of lives.
DR KAMAL KENNY
Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia