Malaysia’s Dilemma: Teenage Pregnancies

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A recent report by United Nations Populations Fund reveals that teenage pregnancies are rising in an alarming rate in Malaysia, a generally conservative society. Latest statistics show there are 51 teen pregnancies a day and it is believed that the actual numbers are higher. Teenage pregnancies are associated with higher maternal complications. Teenage mothers usually suffer poverty and are unable to reach full potential in life.

The major key determinant of this issue is the Malaysian government’s reproductive health policies. Sex education is not emphasized as the government pushes for abstinence. Adolescents are not adequately educated on safe sex and there is strong focus on the concept that ‘sex is only allowed after marriage’. Along with the rise in adolescent pregnancies, child marriages are increasing concurrently. Furthermore, government policies restrict family planning provisions to married individuals only. Unwed teenage mothers fear social and religious discrimination, therefore most decide to abandon their newborns in unsafe places.

A "baby hatch"- OrphanCare, a NGO in Malaysia provides a safe area for mothers to leave their newborns instead of abandoning them in unsafe places.

A “baby hatch”- OrphanCare, a NGO in Malaysia provides a safe area for mothers to leave their newborns instead of abandoning them in unsafe places. (Obtained from ‘FreeMalaysiaToday’ webportal)

Oral contraceptive pills and family planning services should be available to all individuals regardless of marital status. The National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB) is a major arm of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. It plays a crucial in initiating changes of family planning strategies. Nevertheless, preliminary effort of introducing sex education in schools has been met with strong resistance from religious leaders. Social activists, community leaders and non-governmental organizations need to have an open forum with local religious leaders regarding the impact of the issue on the country’s future.

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2 Responses to “Malaysia’s Dilemma: Teenage Pregnancies”

  1. mjschleiff Says:

    Thank you for this clear and compelling issue and argument! I think you have done well to choose an inclusive approach that takes into account some of the cultural drivers and does not just focus on directly trying to change government policies. Keep talking about these issues!

  2. charisfolkerts Says:

    Thanks for posting! It is so frustrating when a clear problem within society is present and yet there is still refusal to accept what is actually happening in order to prevent it. It is sad that it has come to nonprofits providing safe places for teenagers to drop off their unwanted babies. I wonder what the conservative and religious groups have to say about this practice and if the babies are neglected even by them. I also wonder how society would react to nonprofits providing family planning services in the form of education. Another important consideration is the teens themselves. What do they want and if family planning education is made available would they seek it out? There is a similar conflict going on within the States about abstinence only education vs comprehensive sexuality education and several studies have shown that exposing young adults to information about sex does not increase the likelihood that they will have sex, in fact it decreases!

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