In Malaysia, the subject of sexuality is considered taboo. Many parents do not talk to their children about the subject, and the sexual education curriculum in the school is almost non-existent. This may be because a common belief in Malaysia is that by providing information on sex and sexuality, adolescents will become more curious about the subject and more likely to experiment with sex (Mutalip, 2012). However, the lack of health and sexual education for young adults and children in Malaysia may be the cause of high rates of STIs and unwanted pregnancy in the country. Knowledge is a key component in helping to reduce the sexual risk that these adolescents face (Anwar, 2010).
STI’s have been found to be one of 5 most important causes of healthy productive life loss in developing countries. A published study from 2006 by UNAIDS/WHO reported 70,559 cases of STIs in Malaysia. A study from BMC Public Health found that youth participants had a high reporting of knowing that AIDs was a STI, but this knowledge fell dramatically for other types of STIs. Current sexual education programs in the country tend to focus on AIDs with little focus on other diseases (Anwar, 2010). The same study also found that there were many misconceptions believed by students. Leukemia and Rheumatoid Arthritis were two conditions that a considerable amount of students thought to be STI’s (Anwar, 2010). Students in Malaysia are not sufficiently informed about the dangers of STIs, their symptoms, and routes to prevention. So, how does this specifically affect young women in Malaysia?
While insufficient sexual education lead to higher rates of STIs for young women as well as young men, it also leads to higher rates of teenage pregnancies. About 18,000 underage girls become pregnant each year in Malaysia (Malaysia Needs Sex Education, 2018). In Sibu, Malaysia, teenage pregnancy was found to constitute about 12% of the total fertility rate and among one third of these are due to pregnancies of unwed mothers (Saim, 2013). Additional studies have found that pregnancy out of wedlock is the main factor for infanticide and the abandonment of babies (Saim, 2013). Maternity homes for unwed mother are often an option for teenage mothers with nowhere else to go. These usually range from governmental, to semi governmental, to completely non governmental shelters. When a teenager become pregnant out of wedlock she is considered to be the victim of sexual abuse and in need of urgent protection. At least five governmental shelters exist throughout Malaysia.
One key to solving the issue of unwanted pregnancy and STIs may be better sexual education for both girls and boys. Respondents from a study coming out of Selangor, Malaysia revealed that 49.3% of people believed that sexual education might help to, “to overcome the social illness among school teenagers.” (Mutalip, 2012). 77.6% of respondents felt that this sort of education should be incorporated within other subjects instead of taught separately. This study might be a sign that Malaysian youth are slowly breaking that taboos around discussion of sexuality. As more people in Malaysia feel comfortable enough to speak about these topics in a school and home setting, rates of unwanted pregnancies and STIs in young women could drastically reduce. Education is the key to this outcome.
Anwar, Mudassir, Syed Azhar S Sulaiman, Keivan Ahmadi, and Tahir M Khan
Awareness of School Students on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Their Sexual Behavior: a Cross-Sectional Study Conducted in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. BMC Public Health 10(1)
Malaysia needs sex education. In: R.AGE. http://rage.com.my/sexeducation/. Accessed 13 Jul 2018
Mutalip, Siti Syairah Mohd, and Mohamed Ruzianisra
Sexual Education In Malaysia: Accepted Or Rejected? . Iranian J Publ Health 41(7)
Saim, Nor Jana, Mona Dufåker, Malin Eriksson, and Mehdi Ghazinour
Listen to the Voices of Unwed Teenage Mothers in Malaysian Shelter Homes: An Explorative Study. Global Journal of Health Science 5(5)