When sex and procreation is important but its education is notAZMI ANSHAR
If there is a predictable conclusion in Malaysia’s heart breaking phenomenon of baby dumping, it is this: thousands of women emerging out of puberty, perhaps poverty and ignorance – likely in their mid to late teens – are barely savvy about sexual intercourse and reproduction and no inkling of their biological and psychological ramifications.
However, the unwed mothers who abandoned their babies do understand community expectations: the immense guilt and shame, overwhelmed by stigma and, horrors, vulgar harassment if ever their deed is exposed.
As far back as human evolution goes, procreation is an essential human endeavour, a priority next to breathing, sustenance, excretion, sleep and social interaction.
In Western and secular-based nations, sexual procreation and reproduction is taught in high school classes as a matter of fact: ways to enhance the human populace and also means to limit it.
It’s all part of the Government-sanctioned, no hassle national school curriculum. What it does is it subtracts the stigma and embraces its life-giving pleasures.
It’s a scientifically and fact-based education, similar to instructions on how and what to consume to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
However, this enlightenment is not always prevalent in ultra-conservative (read repressive) nations like Malaysia, where sex education is so taboo that in this day and age, young people only find out, somewhat, about sexual procreation immediately after their marriage solemnisation.
The women are expected to produce progenies that could compete with an assembly plant.
First things first: young girls and boys are taught early on that fornication out of wedlock is sinful and must be avoided at all cost.
Chastity is ingrained on these youngsters. There are no options or alternatives. Just don’t do it.
Which is virtually impossible. If we know anything about human desire and fallibility to lust, sex is a desirable and unstoppable feral human instinct, restrictions or doing it before marriage be damned.
Such an ironic twist, a paradox even. Sex and procreation is important but its education is not.
That said, what these youngsters are not privy too are their vulnerability to unprotected and ignorant sex.
You were never instructed, taught or informed of its by-product – unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease – so there’s nothing to know or be forewarned except to lose yourself to temptation.
Since unprotected sex is transactional, two things will happen: pregnancy for the women and sexually transmitted disease for the copulating couple.
Whatever it is, it takes some doing for a teenage girl to hide a bulging stomach without raising suspicion.
The girl experiences nine months of terror and paranoia, on top of the guilt and the shame.
But most terrifying is the ultimate step: giving birth, either alone or with the help of a trusted friend under medically unsound and unsanitary conditions.
Because baby dumping literature and the manual on how to give up a baby safely with no questions asked didn’t reach them, reported are harrowing stories of foetuses discovered in dumpsters, toilet bowls and recently, at the back of a four-wheel drive. It’s become a cliché.
Half of the abandoned babies don’t make it but the ones who do are fortunate and the most fortunate are babies who somehow make their way to the welcoming slot of a baby hatch.
That brings us to Malaysia’s baby dumping problem, reported to be the highest percentage across South East Asia. Average babies dumped annually? 100. An even but discomfiting number that has no immediate resolution.
While there are conscientious people and NGOs bending backwards in providing aid to these poor souls, a resolution is still bleak for as long as society and enforcement and religious authorities scream bloody murder at the idea of “free sex”, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, distributing free condoms or birth control medication.
If the annual numbers of baby dumping are consistent, it means only one thing: we have not come even close to a resolution in any conceivable future.
A cogent suggestion: a strong government that can institute a progressive child birth policy for unwed couples that withstands the toughest religious blowback helps.
But in the long run, society’s mindsets have to change, at least by taking away first the penal or religious punitive code of retribution on the “offending couples” that provides a mentally painless passage for birth and nourishment.
Instead of 100 possible deaths from baby dumps, we can celebrate 100 newborn Malaysians with a chance to grow up and live a meaningful life.
As for the parents, yes, it’s a child out of wedlock and they’ll endure society’s consternation but with formal help, support and guidance, it doesn’t need to be a life or death sentence.
Azmi Anshar is a retired newspaper editor and award-winning commentator, who also likes to indulge in books, music, movies and his grandkids.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.