DATA released by a “sugar daddy” dating platform, which claimed to have over 400,000 active members in this country, including many university students, recently created a stir among Malaysians.
Many have passed moral judgement on the app and its users, but we urge the government, universities and the public to instead focus on students’ rights and access to financial resources.
At the same time, we need to address inequalities and pressures that may push students into making constrained choices.
Transactional dating or sugar dating is typically characterised by an older, wealthier person providing financial remuneration to a younger person in exchange for a relationship.
For many, sugar dating may be an informed choice and a path to financial independence.
Instead of banning sugar dating apps, we should be exploring measures that ensure better opportunities and rights for students and youths, including providing more financial aid for tuition, employment growth and skills training, and better social safety nets.
The focus must be on rights and financial resources. We must listen to and respect students and young people – and take the effort to better understand their lived realities and needs.
Banning the apps may cause sudden financial loss to the users and could push transactional dating into dangerous and riskier parts of the Internet – leaving them vulnerable to abuse. The authorities could protect against breaches of privacy and online harassment instead.
WOMEN’S AID ORGANISATION