According to deputy minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff at Parliament recently, only 50 per cent of Malaysian women use contraceptives, according to a 2014 study.
The percentage of women of reproductive age (15-49) using any method of contraception at any given point in time is termed the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate or the CPR.
The CPR covers all women of reproductive age regardless of marital status. Malaysia’s CPR data of approximately 50% were only from married women.
There is no data from unmarried or single women and due to the stigmatisation and barriers in accessing contraceptives and related services in this group. Therefore, it would be fairly accurate to estimate that the CPR is significantly lower.
It was also noted that: “There is not much difference seen in CPR between different education levels among women,” the Rantau Panjang MP told the Dewan Rakyat today.
However global data had consistently shown that the CPR is lowest among women from lowest education level, socio-economic strata and who resides in rural areas.
The 5th Malaysian Population and Family Survey done in 2014 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) had shown that the CPR is 52.2% for married women and only 34.3% use effective modern methods of contraception, such as pills, barriers, injections, tubal ligation, intrauterine devices or implants.
The same study showed that the lowest CPR are at the extreme of age groups, i.e the married adolescence and the peri menopausal age groups. The low CPR in Malaysia has been stagnating for the last two to three decades.
Unmet need for family planning simply means the percentage of women in the reproductive age group who are sexually active and do not want to get pregnant, but are not using any method of contraception. Malaysia’s unmet needs for family planning is estimated to be about 25%.
Unmet needs is especially high among groups such as:
- Urban slum dwellers
- Women in the postpartum period
Critically unmet needs translates to unwanted pregnancies, abortions and maternal or fetal complications during pregnancies.
The ill health effects are multiplied many folds in the most vulnerable groups, especially adolescents, poor and marginalised women.
At the same parliamentary sitting, the question of what measures are taken to reduce unplanned pregnancy for the poor and low educated group was asked by Alor Setar MP Chan Ming Kai.
The answer and way forward should be age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education for all Malaysian schoolchildren, adolescents and youths.
Increasing access to contraceptives and related services to decrease the unmet needs, destigmatisation, decriminalisation of sexuality and tackling contraceptive myths and mistruths are equally important.
Governmental agencies, NGOs and stakeholders need to take the bold step in recognising the fact that contraception protects women’s health, saves lives, and strengthens families, communities and the nation.
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