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Time for Harapan to revisit efforts regarding child safety and sex education

Kasthuri Patto

MP SPEAKS | The horrific story of a 15-year-old girl in Kampar who not only did not know she was pregnant but gave birth in the toilet of her home as the result of rape by her 13-year-old brother has left Malaysians shell shocked and stunned. And similar cases have happened several times since May.

What did this boy have to go through to act this way towards his own family member?

Is our sexual education in schools inadequate? Whose version of sex education are we using? When was the last review of the current sex education syllabus? How effective is our syllabus today and how do we measure it?

The United Nations has called for government stakeholders and ministers to invest in sex education for young people. The CSE or the Comprehensive Sexuality Education is aimed at gender, avoiding early pregnancies and rights - all three critical issues that have been not adequately addressed by the former regime. We now have to ensure that we consolidate all our energy, efforts and drive to see these issues addressed accordingly.

Unesco had also compiled an international technical guidance on sexuality education that has updated its guidelines from 2009. What is important to note here is that as a government, sex education must be consistently reviewed with the changing times and access to the world wide web as well as a sea of regulated and unregulated information out there that is 24/7 available for young people to access.

The revised ‘international technical guidance on sexuality education’, released by Unesco earlier this month, is the long-awaited update to initial guidelines published in 2009 and at the same time aimed to educate policymakers to engineer so that the sex-education syllabus will be tailor-made for the Malaysian culture where the focal point is judgement free education on reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, safe touches and unsafe touches as well as respecting one’s personal space including on social media.

The education ministry must decide against all odds to commit to educating our young girls and boys on reducing unintended or teen pregnancies, indirectly keeping them in school and safeguarding the overall reproductive health of girls and boys. It will also have a contributive impact on combating child marriages.

It is also time for our sex-education syllabus to include a subject on stalking and domestic violence which many young couples are victims of.

Malaysia must stand tall and not cower to any pressure group that aims to derail all initiatives by the government to uphold the rights of children and work to ensure we equip our children with the right knowledge, wisdom, discernment, protection and a shoulder to lean on when in troubled times.

Lori Adelman, the director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, aptly states that we must remember what the stakes are. Young people are the largest generation ever and they are relegated to receiving scientifically incorrect and confusing messages and it has very large consequences for their lives.

The reality is that we will see our youths surpassing all age groups in Malaysia in terms of population and the time is now to educate them on positive sex-education.

KASTHURI PATTO is the MP for Batu Kawan, Wanita DAP international secretary, member of the parliamentary special select committee on rights and gender equality as well as the Parliamentarians for Global Action (Malaysian Chapter) secretary.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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