PETALING JAYA: In our report yesterday titled “Teen trend worrying”, we had inadvertently said that a recent National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022 revealed that 33% of teenagers in the country have engaged in sexual intercourse before reaching the age of 14. In fact the survey revealed that 154,646 (7.6%) adolescents between 13 and 17 years were reported to have had sex, The figure was from a sample of 33,523 secondary school students aged from 13 to 17 who reported having had sex. The error is regretted.
Sexual activity among adolescents, especially those who engage in it without protection, has always been of concern to those working towards the well-being of young people, said Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai.
He was commenting on the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022, which revealed that 33% of teenagers in the country engaged in sexual intercourse before reaching the age of 14.
He said the latest data validates earlier studies, which showed similar worrying trends.
“With the advent of social media, peer pressure, lack of parental supervision, school dropouts and a general apathy among many preferring to not acknowledge these issues openly, we have failed our young people.”
He said among the obvious dangers and consequences of adolescent sex are unintended pregnancies, abortions, unplanned births, baby dumping and sexually transmitted diseases, adding that these often affect the mental and physical health of the individuals and at times, it can be irreversible.
Muruga Raj also said parents have the most critical role to play in acknowledging these issues through open and non-judgemental discussions with their children.
He said it is important for parents to spend time with their children and know where they are and what they are doing.
“These duties cannot be tasked to others, as (some parents) often do. Comprehensive sexual education, which we have failed to implement for decades, is one of the key strategies in tackling these issues.”
He said amendments to the law need to be considered for adolescents who are in need of sexual and reproductive health services, including the provision of contraceptives.
Muruga Raj said there is a need to look at the issue in a holistic framework, providing practical solutions that are in tandem with the realities of what teenagers are facing.
He added that failure to do so risks having generations of adolescents unable to safely navigate through one of the most tumultuous phases of their lives, which can permanently affect their ability to achieve their full potential in adulthood.
In a study by the Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health, 154,646 adolescents aged between 13 and 17 were found to have had sexual intercourse.
The institute said the figure was a population estimate derived from 7.6% of a sample of 33,523 secondary school students aged from 13 to 17 who reported having had sex.
According to the NHMS Adolescent Health Survey 2022, which was conducted from June 12 to July 8 last year, two-thirds of Malaysian teenagers who had sex were sexually active, with 75% having had sex within 30 days of the survey being conducted.
It said 88% of those who have had sex did not use any form of birth control.
This lack of contraceptive use puts them at a high risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Another finding from the survey is that 11% of teenagers who have had sex reported having multiple sex partners.
The age of consent for sex in Malaysia is 16.
The findings of the survey highlight the need for readily available contraceptives for adolescents in Malaysia.
Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said it is extremely worrisome that teenagers are sexually active.
She said one of the reasons could be because they lacked ambition.
“The parents’ role is crucial in mentoring, encouraging and creating a goal-driven environment for their children while providing them with focus.”
Noor Azimah said boredom, a lack of direction and indifference could be other factors that prompted teenagers to indulge in sex.