Or the Importance of Sex Education
The rate of teenage pregnancies and abandoned babies nationwide is alarming. Ipoh is not immune to this and while our community leaders, experts, police and NGOs debate about how to resolve this issue, babies continue to be dumped.
Many see sex education as a means of empowering young teenagers or inexperienced couples. Information is power and giving these people informed choices is one solution.
Sex education is not about free sex but it educates the young person about his or her body, importance of responsible relationships, the consequences of having unplanned and unprotected sex, what contraceptives do, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDs and how to say “No”.
Parental interaction, the family unit, upbringing, poverty, discipline, education and peer pressure contribute to the problem. So it is incorrect to say that the abandoned baby problem is because of exposure to pornography or the celebrations at New Year and Valentine’s Day.
Babies have been abandoned long before the existence of blue movies or easy access to pornographic literature and the problem is certainly not seasonal.
Detailed Study Needed
We do require a detailed study into the reasons why girls and women fall pregnant without planning for it. Statistics will also show whether the problem is happening within a certain age group, race, religion, educational attainment and job type. Statistics will also uncover how widespread the problem is, for example, is it 1 in 5 girls or is it 1 in 20 girls.
In the past, problems like these were swept under the carpet. Today, increased and better reporting may have added to the alarm.
Punishment Not the Answer
What we should not do is call for capital punishment for the mothers of abandoned babies. Babies could have been still-born or the mother who is already traumatised by giving birth, and rejected by her lover, could have panicked knowing how her family and society views unmarried mothers.
It takes two to tango. The man is also responsible for the act. He is also culpable; and castration is not the answer, as has been suggested by a politician.
In the long run, sex education must be given to our children.
Where to Go For Help
Meanwhile, there are various organisations which can help, such as the Perak Family Health Association (PFHA), an NGO which gives confidential advice to teenagers or couples (both married and unmarried) seeking information on sex and family planning. (An interview with the Manager of the PFHA will be published in the next issue.)
For those who may be too late for this advice, there is a baby hatch at the Ipoh Specialist Centre in Ipoh, which was set up after the plight of an abandoned baby was highlighted in a national newspaper (“Family: Baby Masya, the miracle baby” 24/07/2010 in NST).
NOTE: A quick telephone call to the four main private hospitals to enquire whether they have a baby hatch, or will be starting ‘baby hatch’ facilities, produced disappointing results. One hospital even thought I wanted a baby ‘hat,’ presumably to keep the baby’s head warm.
1. Ipoh Specialist Hospital’s receptionist did not answer the ‘phone immediately and only answered after I had to wait several minutes on the only successful try. The telephone operator’s response was that she did not know what a ‘baby hatch’ was. (Incredibly this was the one hospital that was reported to have a baby hatch in its A&E facilities. The baby hatch is a cot placed in an area, which is not covered by CCTV. A sensor triggers staff nearby, once a baby is put into it.)
2. The Fatimah Hospital switchboard also did not know what a baby hatch was and redirected me to ‘Accident and Emergency’. They told me that they had no plans as yet for a baby hatch.
3. The Kinta Medical Centre telephonist redirected me to the maternity ward and they asked me to call the following day to speak to the sister.
4. The Pantai Hospital Ipoh also did not know what I was talking about and redirected me to the maternity ward, where I was kept on hold for some minutes until someone ‘senior’ could talk to me. Again, I was told to ‘phone the next day to speak to a sister’.
All in all, these four hospitals would have given a very discouraging experience for a young, traumatised mother. The inadequate and unhelpful first line of enquiry (the telephone operator), would have put these young girls off. It may help explain why we have babies dumped in bins. Any help given must be easily available, and straightforward. The people at the first line of enquiry must be well-informed.