KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Malaysian sex educator June Low has been recognised among the world’s top 40 young family planning champions this year by the Gates Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
According to the “120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders” project organised by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the prestigious US-based university’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Low created Malaysia’s first online sex education show called Popek Popek, amid a lack of comprehensive sex education in the conservative Muslim-majority country.
“The response received has been very positive, and I’m happy to hear that many health professionals, schools, and even government organisations have used the videos as part of their work.
“Over the years, I have also consistently advocated for the implementation of CSE (comprehensive sex education) in Malaysia,” Low told “120 Under 40”.
Popek Popek is a funny sex education web show in Bahasa Malaysia that ran for two seasons in 2015 and 2016, in which Low and a male partner, Sudar, talk about issues like how to wear a condom, oral contraceptives, the morning-after pill, sexually transmitted infections, how to shave pubic hair, how one can become pregnant, rape, the vagina, the penis, masturbation, unprofessional doctors who refuse to give birth control pills to unmarried women, and even volcano massages.
Low is currently studying for a Master’s in public health at Kyoto University in Japan, researching on the views of parents on the implementation of sex education in Malaysia.
“Through teaching, it quickly became clear to me that the actual needs of the audience were not being met by existing sex education efforts. Over time, I also realised that very few people were working against the tide of bad sex ed, for a variety of reasons.
“I feel a great responsibility towards young people and I have seen the difference good sex ed can make to a person’s life. So I’ve made it my life’s mission to work hard towards improving the ways in which we can support young people,” she told “120 Under 40”.
Low, who won a US$1,000 grant from the Gates Institute in the “120 Under 40” 2019 contest of family planning leaders below 40 years old, said she would use the money to fund her research in Malaysia next year.
She told CodeBlue that she taught comprehensive sex education at various schools, mostly private and international ones, across peninsular Malaysia after Popek Popek stopped screening in 2017 due to a lack of funds.
Low has also taught at a few public schools with progressive teachers or headmasters. Then she went to Japan last year to pursue her studies.
Sex education in Malaysian government schools, according to Low, is still abstinence-based.
“Stop pushing abstinence education,” Low said, when asked about her recommendations to curb baby dumping and the use of abortion pills, which are illegal in Malaysia, without medical advice.
“We have evidence both from foreign and local academics, experts in the field, who have shown how abstinence education just does not work. So instead of wasting time with it, we should instead find ways to communicate better, to understand concerns and to bridge differences.”
On whether she will renew Popek Popek for a third season, Low told CodeBlue: “I can’t say for certain right now, but I will say that I’m working on something bigger. I want to do better.”