C = Condom; C = Censor. Condom = Censor?
Mon, 2010-12-06 17:54 — admin
To mark World Aids Day, Dec 1, we tackle the issue of condoms and the question of why it is readily available even in convenience stores, but is something that has a gag order attached to it.
It's been almost two decades of going back and forth with the idea to have "it" taught in schools... or not.
Every year or so, the issue would crop up. Usually, the same tired discussions would follow an announcement of a spike in STDs among youths, or an increase in child pregnancies or a rise in HIV or AIDS infections.
Much debated through the years, "it" has been a controversial topic with fairly equal numbers on opposite sides; a big group supporting and strongly pushing for the idea to be implemented and another, totally against the move.
But now the situation is becoming more acute, things seem more urgent than it has ever been. Together with the numerous baby dumping and abandonment cases, and with an ever increasing fear of indiscriminate sexual activity amongst youths and those even younger, the teaching of sexual education in schools will finally see the light of day in Malaysia, soon.
How will the subject be introduced is yet to be seen. Understandably, fear of what parents would think - what the repercussions would be and the religious impact, have been the stumbling block to sexual education in both primary and secondary schools.
It's a very touchy subject. But many feel that it's better that a young person understand about the right touch than not realise if a touch is not what it should be.
As for those who know or are now more aware of the functions of their bodies, there is yet another consideration that is being highly debated. And again, it involves the government. Again, it involves groups on opposing sides. Both sides are at an impasse. It's a rubber match.
Condoms. To a large extent, the subject is under wraps. Did you know that the word cannot be uttered on radio and TV? No ads are allowed either. They're a big no, no. And to date, no advocating group has been able to penetrate this issue.
C equals Condoms, C equals Censor. So does Condom equal Censor? Does this add up? In conjunction with World Aids Day which was celebrated yesterday, Dec 1, we got several young people to do the math. And here are their answers:
Tiang Lim, 24
I think sex education in Malaysian public schools is sorely lacking. One of the most important areas of sex education is obviously birth control, and condoms being the cheapest and most convenient way of doing so. Though I have my reservations on how condoms should be represented in the media, at the same time it shouldn't be a taboo to speak about it.
In the United States, condom ads can be shown on public TV and radio channels. However if we examine the state of affairs in the US, especially with regards to public awareness about sex and birth control, the authorities are still struggling to cope with social issues such as teenage pregnancy.
In this light, I will venture to suggest, it is not a question of whether condoms should be advertised and/or publicised in mass media or not, but rather whether it is taught in sex education in schools (which in my opinion, is non-existent in the Malaysian public school curriculum).
I do believe that distributing free condoms are only stop-gap measures at best. The fundamental problem still lies in the inadequacy of sex education in schools. It's never too early to start; personally I feel the best stage should be at the lower secondary level (since I assume teenagers are more 'exploratory' at this stage). Of course if we look at sex education in a larger context, the right values should be inculcated at an early age. It's never too early to educate children the right things (respect of one's body, respect for the sanctity of life etc).
Gideon Yoong, 22
Teenagers are well versed with sexual terms nowadays. I've always felt the problem is promoting openness to talk about sexuality without fear of shame. Banning the word condom only inhibits talk and contributes to the misconception that sex is "a dirty thing". Hence, people are shamed into keeping their sexual issues and views to themselves.
As a result, this misconception continues to live on and is a stumbling block to more pressing issues such as AIDS awareness. So no, I don't think the word condom should be banned in the media. Also, there is already sex education in secondary schools regarding contraceptives albeit kept at a minimum. Perhaps it would serve the cause better if the module was brought forward to graduating primary children, in light of the growing preteen pregnancy issue.
Kong Jien, 23
The use of condoms is not widely publicised but that is not what the proponents of condom should aim for. What is more important is for the general public to know this contraceptive measure exists to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies. The aim is to create awareness.
In creating awareness, it is necessary to balance the need to publicise the use of condoms in a generally conservative society. Neither a total ban nor an all out campaign to promote the use of condoms will do any good. The former is akin to sweeping the problem under the carpet (current situation); the latter will create a lot of backlash from various groups.
Certain groups that represent various sections of society should be brought together to be part of this awareness campaign and jointly discuss ways of creating awareness without being socially insensitive.
Eddie Chin, 23
The use of condoms cannot be overemphasised today especially in a time where one person is infected with AIDS every 12-13 seconds. According to an MTV survey, this occurrence is even more frequent than birth rates. Promiscuity is one of the major reasons why AIDS is so rampant despite all the medical and technological advances and educational campaigns. As people are increasingly open to lifestyle preferences like opting to have casual sex, the use of condoms as a preventive measure must be widely publicised. Keeping mum about practical things like using a condom is as akin to failing to value the significance of our own lives.
I'm not entirely sure why condoms can't be mentioned in Malaysian media. Do the authorities who impose such a rule think they could prevent promiscuous behaviour among Malaysians? Do they actually think there is a cause-effect relationship between the public usage of the word condom and surge in sexual activities, especially among youths? In my humble opinion, there's probably a cause-effect relationship between public usage of this pragmatic contraceptive and a drop in the rate of AIDS infection. I think the Malaysian authorities have missed the point - the message should not be to discourage sexual activities. Instead, the message they should be sending out is practice safe sex to curb the spread of sexually-related diseases.
Kids these days mature a lot faster than they did in the past. In Singapore, Primary 5 and 6 students are introduced to sexual education at the onset of puberty. In International schools, primary school children are already forming opinions about safe sex - somewhat knowing what is right or wrong and that unprotected sex could lead to an unhappy fatal ending. Schools and teachers should approach this matter as-a-matter-of-factly, supplementing formal sex education with personal counselling so as to signal that there are readily available channels of communication for the kids.
It's really clear-cut. If you want to have sex, do it safely or suffer the consequences.
Jackie Tan, 19
Condoms are a form of protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as AIDS and to avoid unwanted pregnancies. I think it should be widely publicised and this includes students in secondary school for it is important to know how to use condoms in a proper way.
Banning the mention of condoms on Malaysian radio or TV is definitely not a rational decision. This will only see a rise in abortion rates and lead to baby dumpings because youths have not been taught the purpose and usage of condoms and the consequences of not using them.
In some countries like Thailand, statistics show a link between distributing condoms resulting in a drop in HIV infections and STDs and I think this will hold true in Malaysia.
Some would think that by distributing condoms to students, it means they have the "license to have sex" but things have changed. We are still in a state of denial and the realisation has still not hit home that youths will have sex when they want to with or without condoms. What we should focus on is to minimise the risk of AIDS through education.
So when is the right time for school education to bring up condoms? I would think anytime as early as secondary school.
Yeong Tai, 23
Using condoms is one of the most effective ways for birth control and preventing STDs. The use of condoms should be publicised to encourage people to use this ingenious invention, especially the younger generation, who are having sex at a younger age compared to 10 or 20 years ago. Since the birth of the internet, it has been a lot easier for people to look for information, photos, videos, and one of the most widely searched items by the younger generation is pornography. This has lead to them wanting to try sex as they would be curious about performing what they see in the pornography. So why keep quiet about the use of condoms when the younger generation can benefit from it?
Sex education is not really a priority in Malaysian schools. This is a problem because the young are oblivious to the consequences of having unprotected sex. Sex education and the use of condoms should be emphasised in Malaysian schools as soon as possible to increase the awareness of safe sex. Safe sex education should be introduced to students at age 15 alongside their Science lessons on reproductive organs.
Pauline Lam, 24
As certain parties have been proposing sex education to be taught in Malaysian schools since ages ago, it's really funny how the authorities are still banning condom ads on TV and radio. If you can have sex ed in schools, it means you are moving towards being more open-minded. If so, why are condom ads still banned here? Do they not know that there are other places (namely, the Internet) where the public (especially students) can view condom ads?
I personally feel that youngsters nowadays are more rebellious. If you tell them no, then all the more they want to do it. So, why not we try to be more open to the idea of educating the public on the importance of safe sex, since no one can really bind those raging hormones anyway? The authorities should carefully revise other countries' sex education plans and improvise according to our own cultural values for implementation. Teachers and students should not be too ashamed to discuss about sex-related information during lessons. Not talking about it does not help either.
It is time for the public to be openly educated about consequences of unprotected sex, such as STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Even if you continue the ban on condom ads, do you think it will reduce the cases of STDs, abortions and abandoned babies? I don't think so. Just because the authorities are being ignorant, it doesn't mean that the public has to suffer the consequences.
Amane Chong, 24
The use of condoms should be widely publicised for the safety of the public engaging in sexual intercourse. There is also a need to educate students about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. When it comes to condoms, it is actually about people taking precautions to protect themselves from possible STDs (e.g. AIDS).
So, in order to protect ourselves and the next generation, educational talks about sex should be brought up when students are young (perhaps by age 14) as they start to be aware of their surroundings. We cannot stop people from having sex, but we can encourage them to practice 'safe sex'.
Condoms should be mentioned in Malaysian media. I believe the current ban is due to respecting the reservations of the Islamic culture. However, holding back could be a careless decision resulting in the increase of STDs, abortion and mental abruption disorder. Yes, we need to respect our fellow Malaysian's culture but we can promote condoms in a smart way. If not on TV, cinema or radio, perhaps it should be on magazines, posters or newspapers. We need not use direct pictures to promote but using emotions and possible consequences of not using condoms as a warning to the people.
Gaby Teh, 20
I think the use of condoms should be widely publicised to avoid abortion and abandoned babies. The number of abandoned babies is increasing with time and the worst is, babies end up frozen to death or dead in a trash can. The publicity of condoms is indeed very important to enable the practise of safe sex. Since we're only human, there's always a huge possibility of being curious and experimenting with things we are not familiar with (such as sex).
Censorship of the word 'condom' in the media is really ridiculous. What is there to be embarrassed about? Everyone is going to learn about it anyway. What's the difference of knowing the word now or later? However, Malaysian media basically censors most anything. There was once, I heard they censored the word 'gun' in one of Rihanna's songs!
The best time to teach sex education is when students enter into secondary school. It is the period when they are well aware of the opposite sex and start to get attracted to each other. Schools and teachers should perhaps approach this matter by giving short talks or have students organise 'Sex Education Week'.