World Contraception Day — Dr John Teo

Comprehensive sex education must be instituted immediately to end unplanned pregnancies.

World Contraception Day was launched 12 years ago in 2007 on September 26th. The day’s mission is to improve awareness of all contraceptive methods available and enable young people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health.

In Malaysia many of our young adults and adolescents need comprehensive sexuality education to be better equipped in avoiding the dire consequences of unplanned pregnancies as well as risky sexual behaviours. In addition, our youths need to be taught about gender equality and the promotion of high self esteem and strong character, enabling them to contribute positively to the nation.

The rising rate of teenage sexual activity and the very low usage of contraceptive methods contributes to the continuing problems of unplanned teenage births, abortions and miscarriages.

Unplanned pregnancies had been seen to be the cause of the downward spiral of many girl’s and young women’s ability to finish school, college, hold a job or improve their economic prospects and potential.

Each unplanned pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage or birth impact significantly upon the life of a girl or young women, exposing them to increasing vulnerabilities or dependency and may leave a permanent scar in their lives, many times for the worse.

Many faced the lack of factual reproductive knowledge, stigmatisation and legal barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and contraceptives. Many failed to protect themselves adequately because society and policymakers deemed fit that all girls and young women must follow an accepted behavioural pattern lest they be branded as outcasts and delinquents.

Many of us failed to see that it’s not the girl or the young women that is the problem but the rigid societal expectations and circumstances that make unplanned pregnancies a high likelihood in this modern era.

The refusal to provide factual reproductive information in the school system added by a moralistic and patronising delivery approach, the taboo about sexual education, the stigmatisation about unwed mothers, the malaise about educating and promoting family planning methods are among the reversible factors that we can endeavour to change for the better.

We need to provide a supportive, safe and creative space in support of our young as they faced the tumultuous transition from adolescent to adulthood.

Adolescents and youths are our greatest assets and the future of this nation. I strongly urge that comprehensive sexuality education, access to sexual and reproductive health services, including the legal amendments needed to enable access, be instituted immediately to end unplanned pregnancies in our youths.

A vision that ensures Malaysia join the community of nations in line with the Convention of Elimination of All Discrimination against Women and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr John Teo is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

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