Sex education still a taboo: Guide for parents

By Rafiqi Yusoff

GOMBAK, 16 October 2021: Sex education remains a controversial issue in several countries including Malaysia with regard to the age at which children should start receiving such education and topics dealing with human sexuality and behaviour.

An open discussion was raised by the Child Bilingualism Centre, under the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (KIRKHS), to further discuss the positive perspective of sex education, mainly as a guidance for parents, which was conducted on Friday.

It was hosted by Dr. Rabiah Tul Adawiyah, the Director of the Child Bilingualism Centre, who is also an Assistant Professor from the Department of English Language and Literature (DELL), IIUM. 

And the guest speakers were Dr. Rebecca Lee Pei Ern, a junior doctor at Penang General Hospital, who is also a co-founder of Sexual Health Yes!, and Dr. Aszrin Abdullah, senior lecturer of Physiology, Kulliyyah of Medicine, IIUM.

This open discussion mainly focuses on giving directions to parents in relation to bringing up their children to be well-equipped with knowledge on sex education throughout their psychosexual development.

The moderator, Dr. Rabiah believed that by conducting this insightful discussion helps to break down the stigma in the modern society that some people might take it that sex education is meant to promote or even encourage sexual activities. 

Dr. Rebecca, an enthusiast aiming to promote children’s access to sexuality education, gave her opinion that sex education is likely a syllabus to expose children with positive contents of sexuality. 

“Sex education is more about giving exposure to children including sexual reproductive health, biology, emotional, pregnancy, gender orientation, as well as teaching them about consent, and privacy. But the focal point is to educate children against HIV or AIDS,” said Dr. Rebbeca. 

The discussion became more meaningful when Dr. Rebecca revealed the current situation of sex education in Malaysia as she deduced that there are many parents who still believe that talking over sex education is a taboo subject. 

“In Malaysia, we are still new in sex education. Other than parents thinking that sex education is a taboo topic, it could also be the reason that teachers are probably equipped with sex education knowledge but they are not empowered enough to deliver the subject,” according to Dr. Rebecca. 

It was further corroborated by Dr. Aszrin when she remarked that “teachers, they do not know how to teach sex education subject in school, therefore they received complaints from parents”. 

The discussion also further highlighted the measures that should be taken by parents in providing sex education to children which were shared by both speakers. 

Dr. Aszrin clarified that there are principles in teaching children concerning sex education as she postulated that children need to be taught according to their age group and it should be done at early age. 

“Parents should use clear language when teaching their children about sexual private parts by using scientific names, rather than using euphemism to describe their sexual private parts as children have the right to know about their sexual reproductive organs,” according to Dr. Aszrin.

She further illuminated that parents also need to teach their children about things related to puberty such as physical and hormone changes when they start to reach the age of nine and above. And also to teach them regarding pregnancy and when they start developing a feeling towards others after puberty. 

“Parents are considered as the main source for their children. Hence, they should make sex education related with religion for the greater purpose,” Dr. Aszrin added.

Dr. Rebecca suggested that parents need to be opportunistic to teach their children regarding sex education. She affirmed that sex education should be taught in a slow process, hence parents should explain little by little to their children. 

However, both speakers concurred that sex education should start from home and it is crucial for children to know their roles including ways to prevent themselves from unhealthy sexual practices, and to understand the challenges of puberty. 

Before the webinar ended, both speakers responded to questions from the audience during the Q & A session. 

This webinar was organised by the Child Bilingualism Centre, as a continuation of the last webinar ‘Children, digitalisation and pornography: an open discussion” which was held on 21 August 2021. It was carried out live via Zoom platform and was attended by 85 participants.***

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