Hong Kong's schools need much better sex education

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 2:29am

I am writing in response to the editorial ("Wiser solution to teen pregnancy", October 4).

The editorial suggested that teen pregnancy does not seem to be a big problem in Hong Kong and stated that the census figures show that there were only 166 births to women under 18 in 2010.

Teen pregnancy is, in fact, a very significant problem in Hong Kong. The world Demographic Yearbook published by the United Nations' Statistics Division found that there were 760 births by women under the age of 19 in Hong Kong in 2009.

Mother's Choice receives close to 3,000 calls annually to their hotline, a number which has been growing over the past 10 years.

Most of the young women who are counselled by Mother's Choice are under 25, many of whom are 16 or younger. We regularly receive calls from and counsel girls as young as 12.

Many of our teenage clients have faced crisis pregnancy multiple times.

I would suggest that, although relatively few young women choose to give birth, there are many more teenage women who face crisis pregnancy every year in Hong Kong who choose to terminate their pregnancies, either in the city's hospitals or over the border on the mainland.

Recent research from Bain & Company shows that there are well over 7,000 crisis pregnancies in Hong Kong each year, the majority of which occur to unwed mothers who are under the age of 25.

Education both at home and at school is certainly one of the keys to a solution.

Bain & Company's research further illustrated how sex education is poor in Hong Kong, resulting in significant knowledge gaps among students.

More than 40 per cent of local schools do not receive sex education from a qualified third-party provider, and in-house provision is usually sorely inadequate.

Significant numbers of the students polled in the Family Planning Association's Youth Sexuality Survey in 2006 believed statements such as "the withdrawal method effectively prevents pregnancy" and "pregnancy is not possible during the first sexual experience".

Many of the teenagers who seek help from Mother's Choice have never discussed sex or relationships with their parents.

I hope that both parents and teachers will join together in making educating students about sex, relationships and self-esteem for teenagers a priority in Hong Kong.

Alia Eyres, chief executive officer, Mother's Choice