Hope or just a convenient dumping ground?

I chanced upon a little news going on back at home in Malaysia while looking around for info on apidexin. On Saturday, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry of Malaysia together with OrphanCare set up the country’s first baby hatch with the purposes of taking in abandoned babies or help mothers who are unable to care for children. While the measure is welcomed by some groups and even myself, I do feel that it does little to address the actual root of the problem – teenage pregnancies.

Too often we have read of teenagers getting pregnant and giving birth without knowing what is happening to their bodies. Doesn’t this speak volumes of the kind of education that these individuals are receiving from the family unit, the education system and ultimately society? It’s bad enough that we don’t really talk about sex in schools. Sure, we know what a penis and a vagina is and what happens when sperm encounters eggs but we don’t discuss about the emotional implications that comes with sex. We make sex and birth control so technical that young people don’t know how to apply that knowledge to reality. All that education we put into their heads is vomited out the moment they leave school.

Case in point? Well, I actually know of people – young women to be exact – who go around having unprotected sex and bank on the chance that they won’t get pregnant only to go through a number of abortions. Their reasons for ditching birth control can ranging from the stupid to the unbelievable:

  • It’s not my responsibility to buy condoms.
  • It’s too expensive.
  • My boyfriend doesn’t like the feel of condoms.
  • It won’t happen to me because (insert reasons like “my period is irregular” and all that nonsense).
  • My boyfriend should be more worried about me getting pregnant than I am.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain to young women that wearing a condom isn’t about preventing pregnancy alone. It’s about protecting your sexual health. Did you know that 30% of new HIV cases in Malaysia happen to married women who catch it from their husbands? So what more to young women who are just dating or sexually active with many men? Lord knows what you can catch from your spouse, especially in this day and age when ANYTHING is possible.

Why I drag parents into the equation is that it’s the parent’s responsibility as well to go through “the birds and the bees” talk with their children and lend a more realistic perspective on sex. I’m not talking about talks that go along the lines of “having sex makes you a cheap whore”. Please, that is very wrong. Children, especially those who are reaching that age where their hormones drive them crazy, need to know that it’s okay to have sex; they just make sure that it’s safe sex and to have sex responsibly. I found it pleasant and even inspiring to hear how my mother-in-law told my husband where the condoms were and that he was welcomed to use them when he first became sexually active. No lectures, no witch hunt, no labelling. Just support and understanding.

Why I dragged society into the equation is that we need to move away from addressing problems with short term solutions. We need to find out why teenage pregnancies are climbing and what we can do about it, not just give teenagers an easy way out with an ad that probably reads like this – “Pregnant? No where to go? Dump your baby with us and we’ll do the rest.” How can we be sure that people walk away from their mistakes smarter?

And while we’re at it, where are all the fathers? Still out sowing their wild oats. Much heap and blame plus shame have been heaped onto pregnant young mothers but what about the men who impregnate them?

The baby hatch idea is a good short-term solution but more needs to be done to change the attitude that teenagers have about pregnancy, sex and well, parenthood.

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1 Comment

  1. thanks for the interesting read – I saw the photos and small blurb about the baby hatch in the papers when I was in KL last week. I agree, high schoolers ought to be better prepared /informed about the changes and consequences especially in this day and age. I have to admit I had no idea how high the percentage of married women who contract HIV from their husbands back home!!

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