Blame lack of sex education for babies being dumped

Madeleine-Yong-Tan-Heang-LeePETALING JAYA: Some 700 babies were dumped between 2010 and 2016, and a child rights activist said a lack of sex education is to blame.

Madeleine Yong, who founded Protect and Save The Children (PS The Children), an NGO which combats sexual abuse against children, said that even though the education ministry has a reproductive health curriculum, teachers need to be properly trained to teach the subject.

“Parents and teachers need to understand that we are not teaching the teens how to have sex, but to equip them with skills and knowledge to protect themselves.

“At the end of the day, this is a systemic change. They have to make it compulsory to train the teachers.”

Yong said the NGO is willing to assist in training the teachers as it has experience in this.

She said she had worked with teenagers who have been pregnant before at rehabilitation centres. They had been sexually assaulted or raped, resulting in abandoned babies.

Yong said with the internet, teens are able to gain a lot of information about sex, but do not learn about the dangers associated with it, including unwanted pregnancies.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) communications officer Tan Heang Lee, shared Yong’s rationale that the education ministry must implement comprehensive and evidence-based sex education as a standalone subject in schools.

Tan said sex education must cover both the biological and psycho-social aspects of sex, where they need to learn about contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections, consent, healthy relationships, dating violence, and so on.

“There’s often the misconception that sex education encourages young people to experiment with sex.

“In fact, sex education encourages young people to make responsible and informed decisions about their sexual health,” Tan said.

She said the health ministry must improve access to sexual and reproductive health care, including contraceptives, as Malaysia’s usage of contraceptives is below the Southeast Asian average.

According to a 2015 United Nations report, only 57% of married or women with partners in Malaysia, aged from 15 to 49, were using contraceptives (compared with 64% in Southeast Asia).

Meanwhile, 15% of married or partnered Malaysian women, aged 15 to 49, had an unmet need for family planning (versus 12% in Southeast Asia).

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Siti Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, that 91 cases of abandoned babies were reported in 2010, followed by 98 cases in 2011, 89 cases in 2012, 90 in 2013, 103 in 2014, 111 in 2015 and 115 in 2016.

Most of the abandoned babies were reported in Selangor (with 157 cases), followed by Sabah and Johor (each with 84 cases), Kuala Lumpur (with 65) and Sarawak (with 49 cases).

She added that there are currently eight hospitals and an NGO called Orphan Care that provided baby hatch facilities.

The minister was responding to an oral question from Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Kulai).