Rosey (second left) looks at flyers at a booth for the programme.
MIRI: Sexual health education should not be treated as a taboo subject by schools or parents, said Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus.
She said parents and caregivers need to be more open and communicative with their children, including on sex education.
“We need to realise that talking openly about sex is not the same as encouraging promiscuity.
“It is about making our teenagers aware of what is happening with their bodies, what are the respectful ways of treating their bodies and the bodies of others, and how to act responsibly when there is a decision to engage in sexual activity,” she said when closing the Miri Division-level Social Intervention Programme: Awareness and Sexual Education Advocacy (KAPS) 2018 at SMK Bekenu yesterday.
The Bekenu assemblywoman pointed out parents need to realise that while sex may seem an embarrassing topic to discuss with their children, it is vital for them to have an open and healthy discussion.
She stressed there is no evidence to suggest that comprehensive sex education increases sexual activity.
“It was good that the government introduced Reproductive Health and Social Education modules at certain adolescent centres, National Service Training Programmes, and selected schools. But since the programme is still quite new, its effectiveness has not yet been studied or shown,” she said, adding the programme is pro-abstinence.
She said information and access to information about staying safe such as using contraception remains very limited among teenagers in Malaysia.
Rosey pointed out it is not surprising then that there has been a rise in teenage pregnancies over the last few years.
“Maybe because these young adults lacked access to and knowledge of contraception, they ended up having unprotected sex. The truth is teenagers are having unprotected sex, which leads to a notable prevalence of teenage pregnancies.
“For example, the majority of teenagers, at 58 per cent, who fall pregnant in Sarawak are also not married,” she said.
Rosey cited the Global School-based Student Health Survey in 2012, involving teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17, which revealed 50.4 per cent having sex for the first time before reaching the age of 14.
“If parents are open and truthful, it is more likely that the child would turn to them if he or she had doubts about any issue.
“Children must be taught to say no to unreasonable demands made by their peers without feeling pressured. Knowledge often has a positive impact. The danger of teenage pregnancies is that it often affects the health of the mother as well as the child,” she explained.
Rosey also called on society to stop blaming girls for teenage pregnancies and accept that their partners are equally responsible and could be even more responsible if the girls were pressured into sex.
“The effects of teenage pregnancy can echo throughout a girl’s life, and prevent her from achieving her full potential and enjoying her basic human rights.
“Effects include social isolation, low academic achievement, nutritional depletion, low income-earning potential, and lifelong poverty,” she added.