Essential to educate children on sexuality and family planning, says NGO

Datuk John Lau Pang Heng

KUCHING, Nov 21: Sarawak Patriot Association (SPA) has urged the government to include sex education in the school curriculum to create awareness on the importance of sexuality and family planning.

Its president Datuk John Lau Pang heng said it is essential to educate children the importance of managing their sexuality, pregnancy, reproductive health, as well as marriage commitment.

This would be crucial to the female students, as awareness and knowledge will enable the girl to be economically independent, have a career and able to manage her own life and helping others, he continued.

“They need to know how to differentiate social, moral conflicts and legal value judgement.

“Factors that affect a girl’s minimum marriage age depends on her maturity, and her ability to discern between what is good or bad, such that her personal approval or disapproval in important decisions of life become valid plus her reaching the age of puberty,” he said in a press statement.

Lau added that maturity implies powerful presence of mind and intelligence in one’s dealings, one’s ability to safeguard one’s possessions from being squandered away and one’s prudence in spending in a judicious manner.

He noted only when a girl can manage a good life would be the right age of getting married.

“Of course, there are situations where underage girls got pregnant out of wedlock, which would need parental approval to get married,” he said.

Lau opined that although one may have reached the age of puberty are now obligatory on her, but if she is not socially active and economically productive, then she may be termed as an adolescent, but not as mature.

He said the key point for the girls (for marriage) is when they are able to take personal responsibility, economically productive and socially acceptable.

“The 55 parties to the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages have agreed to specify a minimum marriage age by statute law‚ to override customary, religious, and tribal laws and traditions.

“When the marriageable age under a law of a religious community is lower than that under the law of the land, the state law prevails.

“However, some religious communities do not accept the supremacy of state law in this respect, which may lead to child marriage or forced marriage,” Lau explained.

He said that the 123 parties to the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery have agreed to adopt a prescribed “suitable” minimum age for marriage.

In 2010, the United Nations Population Fund recorded 158 countries, which reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority, he added.

“However, in 146 of these countries, state or customary law allows girls younger than 18 to marry with the consent of parents or other authorities. In 52 countries, girls under age 15 can marry with parental consent,” Lau said.

He added that in contrast, 18 is the legal age for marriage without consent among males in 180 countries.

Additionally, he said in 105 countries, boys can marry with the consent of a parent or a pertinent authority, and in 23 countries, boys under age of 15 can marry with parental consent.

“To say that Sarawak is among the seven states who are yet to adopt the minimum marriage age of 18 may need rectification. As under the civil law, the minimum marriage age is 18 years old in Sarawak,” he said. — DayakDaily