Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching has announced that Year Six and Form Five students will learn about statutory rape, child grooming, and sexual harassment as part of their school syllabus starting 2021
She made the announcement yesterday, 23 November, during an event organised by Scholastic Asia and the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) at Scholastic Reading Lounge in Sunway Pyramid.
According to New Straits Times, Teo said that this will be taught from the perspective of law, adding that this was to enable students to learn about relevant legal issues on the subject, including sexual consent.
Teo said that the students needed to be taught that sexual activity involving girls below the age of 16 is a crime regardless of consent
"Many students who are entering either Year 6 or Form 5 begin to experience 'puppy love'," Teo was quoted as saying by New Straits Times.
"So it is important for them to learn about statutory rape and how consensual sex will even be considered as a crime when it involves girls under 16 years old," she said, adding that while the laws are there, the kids wouldn't know if they were not taught about them.
We need to teach them, as we cannot presume that they know the law.
The introduction of the syllabus is due to the increasing number of sexual crimes involving minors in the country, she said, adding that the syllabus would also empower the students to learn about their rights
The Deputy Education Minister said that the increasing number of rape crimes involving minors was among the factors behind the introduction of the syllabus so that youths can be more aware on matters such as sexual consent, harassment, and child grooming from the perspective of law.
They will learn that they can't let people touch their bodies.
"At the same time, they will learn it is not okay to touch other people's bodies," she said.
According to a 2017 police statistics, there were 1,163 rape victims below the age of 18 and 94 for those under the age of 12, reported New Straits Times.
Earlier this month, The Star reported the Deputy Minister saying that the children are now easily susceptible to elements not appropriate for their age, adding that the percentage of young children involved in rape cases has increased to an all-time high.
"The most recent statistics from Bukit Aman demonstrated that of the 822 rape cases, 35% were under the age of 18," she was quoted as saying by The Star.
"What's more worrying is that this percentage has increased from 25% in 2016 to 34% in 2018."
The announcement has been welcomed by Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), whose chairman Datin Nor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the move would educate students and address relevant issues
"Growing up as teenagers is challenging especially for girls who may be sensitive over their physical appearance. They may also be a target for sexual harassment or worse, domestic abuse," Azimah was quoted as saying, adding that the syllabus could best be slotted under sexual education.
"Such a sensitive subject must be broached with great care. If teachers are to teach this topic, they must be properly trained," New Straits Times reported her as saying.
Meanwhile, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said that the topic should be carried out in the form of discussions between the students.
According to the NUTP secretary-general, this should not merely be taught by the teachers.
A few days ago, seven Form Five male students were detained after the alleged rape of a 14-year-old female student at a school in Sabah: