In Malaysia, an estimated 18,000 underage girls every year will become pregnant. A 2004 MCFS showed that only 45.6% of girls surveyed knew that condoms could be used as a form of contraceptive. Rates of syphilis have also doubled in the country from 2011 to 2017. So, the question that I am left with is this. What does sexual education look like in Malaysia?
There appears to be a lack of sexual and reproductive knowledge for Malaysian youths. A study from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2011 revealed that the majority of sexual education for adolescents came from friends, TV, and pornographic materials. The study later found that 85% of respondents thought that sexuality education was held in schools, but it was only on a limited basis and not clear enough. The current version of sexual education that is offered in Malaysia is called the Reproductive and Social Health Education. The program is no doubt unsuccessful as rates of STIs continue to rise in the country, and young girls are becoming pregnant at an alarming rate.
The sexual education courses found in Malaysia tend to focus on the biological aspects of the reproductive system or the sanctity of marriage, and does not go into detail of how to prevent pregnancies or guidance on how to face the real world. Some topics like STI’s, sexual intimacy, and sex are still seen as taboo in Malaysia, and many teachers may become too embarrassed to fully talk in detail about these subjects. Students describe metaphors that teachers use in classes that are too unclear to understand, and the fact that instructors may talk too generally or casually for students to gather necessary information about sex. In the study from Universiti Kebangsann Malaysia, only 5% of students respondents reported their teachers instructing sexual education clearly.
While these school programs are falling behind, 13 in every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15-19 become pregnant every year. However, the blame may not entirely lay on the school system. Sex, in general, is a culturally taboo subject. Parents in many asian cultures are reluctant to talk to their children about sex. Sometimes, the educational programs found in the school systems are the only exposure to sex education that a child receives. This has the possibility to leave some young girls vulnerable to older male partners. As in the case of a 14 year old girl who was interviewed through the Malaysian news website R.AGE. The young girl found herself in a relationship with a 19 year old man who taught her how to have sex. When she became pregnant at her tender age, she didn’t even know that sexual intercourse could result in conceiving a child. Another young girl interviewed in an unwed mothers shelter revealed that she was not ready for intercourse, but her boyfriend kept asking her until she relented. She later told R.AGE that she hadn’t had many conversations about sex. These girl’s stories are not uncommon in Malaysia. There are many unwed mothers shelters, and centers for wayward girls in Malaysia, and similar spaces are not found for boys.
So, from what I have seen, the lack of proper sexual education within schools and households has at least contributed to the country’s adolescent birth rate and increased rate of STIs for young people. Without proper education, young girls are left naive and ignorant about topics like intimacy, sexuality, and proper protection to prevent infections and unwanted pregnancy. This affects them more severely than boys their age. No doubt, sexual education needs to be revamped in the country to see improvement with these issues.
Malaysia needs sex education. In: R.AGE. http://rage.com.my/sexeducation/. Accessed 13 Jul 2018
Talib J, Mamat M, Ibrahim M, Mohamad Z (2012) Analysis on Sex Education in Schools Across Malaysia. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 59:340–348. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.284
World Health Organization. (2011). Health of Adolescents in Malaysia.