Just like any other kid growing up, I always asked the question: ‘Where do babies come from?’
And like many others, I never got a proper answer.
While we all got varying answers to this question, mine ended up being ‘when two people fall in love and get married, God blesses them with a child’.
This has undoubtedly led many of us to grow up without ever knowing the answer to this question. Who can we really blame here? Our families or the education system?
While we’d think the taboo surrounding the topic of sex education would become more normalised, alas, to this day it is still a hush-hush topic in most Asian households.
Many of us do not realise that sex education covers a broad variety of topics regarding sex and sexuality. These topics range from learning about puberty, safe sex, sexuality and STDs/STIs. However, years of taboo surrounding the topic has caused the word to lose its true meaning. To this day, many of us still believe that sex education only talks about ‘how to have sex’.
We Need To Talk About It
Now that I am older, I fail to understand why we continue to struggle to have these conversations.
In many Asian households, parents rarely discuss anything about sexual education. One of the main reasons for this might be the mindset they had to adhere to growing up. Questions regarding changes in our body during puberty to conversations about safe sex were most likely not the norm for them. This could mean that discussing sex ed might not be the most comfortable topic for them.
While it is understandable on our parent’s behalf, how has years of development brought such little change regarding these conversations? Living in a day and age where we freely talk about worldly issues, why have we failed to normalise sexual education?
Many people might point fingers at religion and society for the way things are. Placing things such as modesty and virginity above all when it comes to women.
Setting such standards and norms around sex education has always created issues.
These issues go on to play a bigger role in our society, as it may be turned into a societal standard.
Flaws In The Education System
Even though the education system has tried to introduce sex ed to students, the approach might be a bit awkward. Usually, girls and boys are put in separate classes, which leads to an awkward gap in the information they receive. Oftentimes girls do not understand anything about what boys go through and vice-versa.
Receiving one-sided sex education can prove to be seriously harmful in the long-run. There are so many men who grow up knowing nothing about the menstrual cycle, while others have serious misconceptions about it.
I’m not saying girls do not have similar misconceptions — we really do.
Growing up, girls in my school always believed that if you kissed a boy, you would end up with a baby. I’m not even talking about small kids, these were teenagers who believed in this!
Such issues can only truly be resolved when we come to terms with one fact: proper sex education requires both genders to get all the right information.
Why do We Need Sex Ed?
It’s such a common misconception that kids do not need sex ed until they are ‘of a certain age’.
There are people who believe that sex ed can ruin a child’s innocence. This is linked to the mindset that educating kids about sex can make them more prone to being sexually active.
This assumption creates bigger problems than we might realise. Younger kids who are getting sexually harassed rarely know how to voice it out. One of the main reasons?
Lack of information about sexual harassment.
Parents often teach kids pet names for body parts, which makes it hard to know when a kid is outright telling us they got harassed. This often comes from a place where we have turned words such as ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ into something bad; and parents do not want their kids saying it in public as it is ‘inappropriate’.
Implementation of age appropriate sex education can help us curb these issues by normalising kids using the right terms instead of pet names.
But it’s not just kids who have problems due to lack of necessary information, this stretches on to teenagers as well. Our teen years are when we start expressing ourselves and try new things; often times it could involve sex. Not giving teenagers sex education is not going to prevent it from happening, it just leads to them having unprotected sex. This could in turn lead to different outcomes like STDs/STIs and teenage pregnancy.
In Malaysia alone, statistics show that every 14 out of 1000 underage girls get pregnant each year. This is no small matter, as many of these girls would have to grow up way too fast!
It makes us think — can we possibly prevent this from happening?
Of course we can.
Providing the information needed can sometimes go a long way, and this is one of those circumstances.
We are still very behind on the goal to provide sex ed in Malaysia, but let’s not give up hope yet. While it has still not been fully implemented, The Ministry of Education has introduced a module known as ‘family health education’.
Even though this focuses on protection against sexual crimes, it is still a step towards providing proper sex ed.
It is up to us Malaysians to ensure that we try and spread as much awareness as possible. We all know there are a lot of serious topics that we fail to normalise talking about. Hopefully one day, there will be better access to sex ed for the youth of Malaysia!