A critique of the government’s sex education plan, PKRS, so shrouded in taboo that the word “sex” did not even make it into the plan’s name.
It’s not a textbook publishing company for students studying for their PMR, it’s not your inter-state tennis tournament title, and no it’s not a (yet another) Government scholarship. It is Pendidikan Kesihatan Reproduktif dan Sosial (Reproductive Health and Social Education).
Has the very simple and beautiful term – sex – been replaced by a three-letter acronym known as “KRS”?
I recently attended a seminar on “Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS” sponsored by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD). The objective of the seminar was to address the urgency of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Malaysia that somehow always gets swept under the carpet.
In view of the increasing stigma on HIV/AIDS and the longstanding issue of abandoned babies found in drains that only appeals when the piercing cries of an infant resonates through a tunnel of dirt and stench, we were introduced to the official Dasar dan Pelan Tindakan Pendidikan Kesihatan Reproduktif dan Sosial Kebangsaan (National Policy and Action Plan on Reproductive Health and Social Education) (“Action Plan”).
It is indeed an admirable step towards the promotion of the right to reproduction, but will this policy plan be an effective measure of addressing the thickening of moral taboo in this diverse society?
The rationale behind sex education is to encourage a safe and enjoyable process that builds upon acquiring information about sexuality and learning how to nurture relationships, i.e. learning how to say “no” and when to say “yes.” It is about learning how to make informed choices about our health and behaviour, understanding our rights, and developing the competency in making those choices. The intention is to educate individuals to make responsible decisions in the way they communicate with their own bodies, to be comfortable with their sexuality, and to cultivate a sense of maturity in the way they express their human desire to have intimacy.
Regardless of your background, you will be curious about sex. So if you are going to try, you might as well try it safely and responsibly, right? The cost of taking such a calculated risk is that it might not work for everybody. But by knowing and understanding how the human body works, your sexual organs – how and why it functions the way it does, being aware of how to protect your body and most importantly, learning to respect your body and the bodies of others regardless of sex, religion and colour – perhaps we will not get this shocking us in the news or any more of that terrorising parents and other school-going children and effectively, society as a whole.
In order to achieve 1Malaysia, I am afraid that we must refrain from inhibiting the freedom of expression in order to have mature discussions on sexuality. It should be a cause of social concern because it rarely gets talked about in positive light, if any at all! In the first place, seriously, what the heck is “sexuality”? At the rate we’re going, we’ll never know. We run away from the subject matter because we are still being punished for the simplest manner of showing affection under penal legislation which pre-date the birth of human intelligence.
Let us then start the ball rolling by calling a spade, a spade. I fail to see the reason why they must make this beautiful discovery a prisoner of “political correctness.” How do you teach the youth what sex is without acknowledging the existence of the word “sex”? By replacing it with “KRS”? Seriously?!
The outline of the PKRS Action Plan includes incorporating 4 main strategies to manage and implement sex education and they are:
Now it sounds like a really brilliant plan, right? It is, until you find out that the official designated authorities responsible for implementing the plan include, among 13 other ministries and their agencies, one religious body known as Jabatan Kemajuan Agama Islam Malaysia (JAKIM).
I am aware of the sensitivity arising from providing education about sex, especially in this country. It was only until very recently that the Malaysian Government decided to put their foot down by coming up with KRS to be implemented from pre-schools to tertiary education institutions.
My concern is, how is everyone going to explore and truly appreciate each others’ views if there is a possibility of segregation based on religion? If a person chooses to send their children to a religious institution to learn about sex, by all means, please go ahead, so long as it does not form part of the public school’s compulsory subjects.
I would therefore be enraged if my Government had the intention of subjecting my school-going children to the influence of any religious authority on the topic of sex; or even the audacity to separate my children from their Muslim friends and deprive them of invaluable cultural and religious exchange on sexuality solely on the grounds that they belong to a different set of values and beliefs.
Why are we so afraid of difference? How are we going to learn from each other, my dear 1Malaysia?
Sexuality, like God, is not spared from public lynching. Men and women are sacrificed at the altar of morality for fearlessly speaking the Truth with their bodies, their thoughts, and emotions, while some choose to stay in the dark forever, tucked behind disbelief.
The existence of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals (LGBT) and everybody else stuck somewhere in between is vehemently denied; sometimes self-denied too.
Women are abused, blamed, and shamed for carrying a sea of happiness and a wonderful surprise in her womb because it is simply unacceptable in society to be pregnant before marriage. If we are determined to see sex education as a tool to curb potential risks of any sexual activity i.e.. unplanned pregnancy, sexual violence, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, then we must appreciate that diversity is finding out that we can agree to disagree.
We must talk about it. Everyone should be learning the same basics about sex – the human body, safety, protection, relationships and respect – no beating around the bush, no more separation in schools and no more waving KRS in the air.
Attempts to impose narrow moralistic views about sex and sexuality have failed because we allow society to suppress this very fundamental and very natural aspect of our lives. Our usage of words are limited and substituted with inconspicuous texts, any remote sexual content in the media is sensationalised by projecting it to be seemingly deviant and illicit, minor sexual behaviour (such as holding hands and kissing on the cheek) in public places as well as in private enclosures is heavily regulated by authorities, we are also painfully punished for just being ourselves and persecuted for our natural sense of curiosity.
How many more must plunge to death from high-rise buildings before this imposition of faith becomes a moral warfare for everyone living in this country?
I envision a liberated Malaysian society that will no longer be afraid of a serious discourse about sex and our bodies. When using words like “vagina”, “penis”, “nipples”, “labia”, “foreskin”, “masturbation”, “menstruation”, “condoms”, “lubricant” and “HIV/AIDS” will no longer attract all wet glares or erect immediate barriers between us. When people no longer fear the unknown, they no longer want to inflict pain on others. Paulo Coelho, the author and spiritualist, once said, “to master the Soul, one must learn to master the Body.” In order for that to happen, I would be very much inclined to ensure that: -