If you were a parent, would you want your child to be introduced to sex education, or would you prefer him to have more religious classes, at school?
As a parent, do you consider that sex education is a medium for teenagers to find out everything about sex, and tempt them to experiment with sex?
Are you sufficiently enlightened to understand that sex education teaches children to understand their own bodies, know about the reproductive system, the consequences of unprotected sex, the importance of forming stable relationships, and how to say “No!”?
An article in a Malay daily, citing data it had obtained from the National Registration Department (NRD), claimed that 159,725 children had been born out of wedlock to Muslim mothers since 2013.
The NRD has since clarified this report and said that it did not include religion in the statistics. It claimed that the illegitimate births were from people of all faiths.
The NRD was forced to do this because of the reaction from the public. Many people had expressed concern over the 53,000, babies born out-of-wedlock, to Muslim mothers. This would then mean, that around 145 illegitimate babies were born, every day, to Muslim mothers.
The reaction from certain quarters was predictable. The Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) Women’s Chief, Dr Norsaleha Mohd Salleh, demanded that the authorities increase religious education in schools. She said that children had insufficient religious and moral education and their parents probably spent insufficient time with their children.
Some people would argue that, despite the religious education which Muslim children receive, both in school and at home, illegitimate births, amongst Muslims, are high.
Utusan Online reported, citing data from the Ministry of Health, that in 2016, 29% of 13,831 teenage girls, aged between 10 and 19, (or 3,980 girls) gave birth, out-of-wedlock, to children.
The states which recorded the most teenage pregnancies were Sabah (3,084 cases), Sarawak (2,910), Selangor (1,461), Johor (1,319) and Pahang (940).
First: It would be interesting to do a comparative study of the statistics obtained for the conservative states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah. The data would make interesting reading, but a mere record of births is insufficient.
It would be more informative to know the age of the mother, race, when she married and if she was a first, second, third or fourth wife of a Muslim husband.
Second: What is the definition of a legitimate baby?
The NRD definition states that babies, born to Muslim parents, are only considered legitimate if they are born more than six months after the date of the marriage, to parents who have a valid Islamic marriage certificate.
This report was about teenage mothers, who gave birth out-of-wedlock; but facts about teenage marriages, and births can be deceiving.
A man could rape an underage girl and make her pregnant, and if she were to give birth, then that baby is considered illegitimate. On the other hand, if the rapist marries his underage victim, and a baby is born more than six months after the hastily convened marriage, then the baby is not considered illegitimate. The morality of this marriage and birth is wrong.
What if a man marries a 12-year-old girl, who gives birth, before she is thirteen? Their marriage is legal. Their baby is legitimate; but the circumstances would be considered unusual in most countries.
Third: If we were to compile the 159,725 babies together with the babies who have been abandoned, or dumped in a river, a drain, a rubbish tip, incinerator or toilet, the results may be horrifying.
Religious education alone is not going to solve the problem of illegitimate births or baby dumping; especially as rapists can marry their victims, and old men can marry underage girls, because it is their religious right.
Many Muslims think that large families are a blessing from God, but some of the children and wives, are neglected. In a similar fashion, the mothers of illegitimate babies, cannot take care of themselves, let alone their babies. Many mothers struggle to survive.
A combination of sex education and moral studies, in a mixed, multiracial class, might help to teach both girls and boys, the potential consequences of having sex before marriage.