WE, the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), refer to the letter “Sex ed empowers our young” (The Star, July 2, online at https://bit.ly/2xGqSfE). We applaud the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for taking action to implement sex education for young people, and Dr Kamal Kenny for explaining so eloquently the need for a holistic system of sexual health and reproductive health rights, which encompasses education and healthcare.
We have heard and seen firsthand how lack of sex education has impacted the children and youth of this country. Sexual abuse, child grooming and teenage pregnancies are social issues that have made headlines consistently. Misconceptions about the urgent need for sex education persist, and the unnecessary controversy arising from these only permits such social issues to continue.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is a system of education that provides information on sexual and reproductive health within a framework that is based on human rights. Youths have the right to access accurate information, whether this takes place through one’s formal education or through one’s engagement with healthcare providers. Within the CSE framework, children are provided age-appropriate information to impact their health and decisions in the long run.
One glaring misconception of CSE is that providing sex education will encourage teenage pregnancy. In fact, research has shown that providing information on both abstinence and contraception delays teenage intercourse. Those who choose to engage in intercourse tend to do so much later and with condom use (Guttmacher Institute, 2012, https://bit.ly/
With regard to sexual abuse and child grooming, Dr Kamal is correct in identifying the need for a comprehensive reporting system that both prosecutes perpetrators and prevents such occurrences from happening effectively. CSE has a place in this system. Adults – whether they are teachers, doctors, nurses or the police – require systemic support. This includes providing informed spaces to discuss sex education, its relationship to preventing such crimes from happening, and how to handle these abuses as they occur.
We uphold the need to implement CSE in a manner that is holistic, comprehensive and systemic across the various government departments and ministries. CSE has the capacity to impact the rights of youths and children through an understanding of sexual health and reproductive health rights.
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