Sex education should start at home, says medical expert

A survey by a local university, which was made public earlier today, revealed that 75 per cent of teenagers in Malaysia have watched pornography.

One male student surveyed admitted having watched over 200 pornographic videos daily to satisfy his needs.

While the sample of the survey by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was not made known, the revelation was neither shocking, nor new.

Malaysians Against Pornography (MAP) claimed 80 per cent of children aged between 10 to 17 intentionally watched pornography in 2018, prompting then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to ask the non-governmental organisation to clarify the methodology of its study.

In 2021, a study by researchers from the Sungai Dua Health Clinic and UKM’s Family Medicine Department revealed that children in Malaysia begin watching pornography as young as 14. The study surveyed 986 college students aged 18 to 25.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022 showed that 33 per cent of teenagers in Malaysia engaged in intercourse before reaching the age of 14, and that 154,646 adolescents aged 13 to 17, had had sex.

“People share such news, certain quarters will call for sex education in schools, and soon after, everything is forgotten,” said medical expert, Professor Datuk Dr NKS Tharmaseelan.

Dr Tharmaseelan, who is the past president of the Malaysia Medical Association and Medico Legal Society of Malaysia, said sex education was not a pressing subject for politicians or even the government.

“There is no ‘gain’ for them (politicians in addressing the subject). Unless the politicians and government get involved and are proactive, future generations will suffer, with the lack of communication and exposure to pornography online.”

Experts have, for years, urged the government to include sex education formally in schools. At the moment, the topic is touched on in various subjects, but is not looked at, in depth.

In January, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri mooted to the Cabinet, the need for sex education in schools. She, however, said that such an effort required commitment from the community and the relevant ministries.

“Indeed, it is a combined effort, and it starts at home. You keep the children at home, give them gadgets, and leave them to their own devices. Obviously, they will be curious and would want to explore.

“How many parents in Malaysia talk to their children about sex education? And talking about sex isn’t all about intercourse. It’s about self-respect, and knowing about sexual assault, and inappropriate touching. Incest is a problem too, which many tend to deny or ignore.

“Children must also be made aware of the consequences of sex… how their lives can be disrupted by a moment of recklessness.”

Dr Tharmaseelan added that teachers can then play their roles in schools, as a neutral party.

“There will be children and even parents who will be uncomfortable talking about sex. This is where teachers can come in and a formal curriculum on the subject will go a long way in creating a more mature society.”

Dr Tharmaseelan, however, did not rule out the possibility of repeating his call once this matter dies down and another survey, with similar findings, reappears.

“I’ve pretty much repeated what others have already said and I won’t be surprised I’ll be singing the same tune again, and again.

“We’ve just got to get serious and start teaching our children about such matters from young. We hear of coaches taking advantage of their athletes, and celebrities finally revealing that they were taken advantage of when they were younger.”

He added addiction to porn, or teenagers being sexually active, can be avoided if children are taught about setting boundaries, knowing what’s right and wrong, and not just mimicking what they see or find online.

“No one likes to talk about incest, rape, or other taboo subjects, in public. Some will even become defensive about it.

“But we can’t keep on sweeping such things under the carpet, hoping it will go away. It’s time for us to have these conversations and deal with them,” he added.