Between 2010 and 2016, approximately 700 babies were dumped and the lack of sex education is to blame, according to child rights activist Madeleine Yong, who founded Protect and Save the Children (P.S. The Children), an NGO which combats sexual abuse against children.

She said that even 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,” elaborates Yong.

Yong notes that the NGO is willing to provide assistance in training the teachers as it has experience in this matter.

Personally, Yong has worked with pregnant teenagers as a result of being sexually assaulted or raped at rehabilitation centres.

Teens need to understand the possible dangers associated with sex

"It is difficult in Malaysia as it is a multicultural and multi-religion country. There is a lot of "hush-hush" about these things. That is the problem. We are not open to talking about sexual education ̶ although we should be," echoes consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Tang Boon Nee. "So, if we do not talk about it, it is as if we are hiding. Therefore, it is always better to educate,” she adds, supporting Yong's thoughts pertaining the topic.

"We can always say we prefer it if they abstain when they are young and not ready. But, if they choose to have a sexual relationship, then at least they are educated," she points out.

Yong remarks that with the internet, teens are able to gain a lot of information about sex. “However, they do not learn about the dangers associated with it, including unwanted pregnancies,” she adds.

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

Tan suggests that 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, to name a few.

"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 stresses.

She adds that the MOH must improve access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including contraceptives, as Malaysia's usage of contraceptives is below the Southeast Asian average.

Family planning: Making it more available to Malaysians

"Contraception in Malaysia is definitely underused," laments Dr Tang, despite them being readily available. "You can walk into a pharmacy [or convenience store] to purchase condoms; but there is a social stigma attached to it," she comments.

Especially for girls, the social stigma is even stronger – despite it being better for their sexual and reproductive health, she adds.

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 to 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).

Dr Tang agrees, saying that there is “a lot more to be done to make family planning more available to Malaysians.”

The staggering uprising trend in the number of cases reported requires immediate attention. Source: Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
The staggering uprising trend in the number of cases reported requires immediate attention. Source: Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development

Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Siti Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, that 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 also highlighted that there are currently eight hospitals and an NGO called Orphan Care which provide baby hatch facilities. MIMS

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