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Ignorance of sex education has taken an expensive toll

Publication Date : 01-06-2014

 

Since the rape case at Jakarta International School (JIS), the past few weeks have seen headlines reporting more cases of sexual abuse against children.

Many officials have waded into the debate, but their comments have been useless at best and uneducated at worst.

Erlinda, secretary-general of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), said in an interview with merdeka.com that JIS had adopted “a Western environment [where] free sex, clothing style and kissing in public are not a problem. Many things can trigger sexual violence at JIS.”

Senior Education and Culture Ministry official Lydia Freyani Hawadi said as quoted by tempo.co that “students at JIS do not wear uniforms and they wear revealing clothes”. Lydia added that “the school should have guided the students to wear proper and polite attire to not trigger negative occurrences”.

KPAI chairman Asrorun Niam called for “a war against all elements that become trigger factors, such as pornography, free sex, obscenity, homosexuality and other deviant sexual behavior”.

Those uneducated comments show that the speakers share the same school of thought: that pedophilia is caused by something from outside Indonesia — an external factor.

History, however, shows that the East has had its fair share of these things, as well as pedophiles.

My concerns with these comments are hidden denial and the failure to recognize that such problems lie in our own society. Blaming outside influences is too convenient and does not push Indonesia to find an effective and sustainable plan to prevent sexual abuse against children and protect them.

Very few Indonesians grew up with proper sex education from their parents, schools or society.

My parents did not tell me anything, except for basic knowledge of menstruation (“From now you will have it once a month and it’s normal”).

My Catholic high school once held a class on sex education but it was more about disgusting pictures of venereal disease in an effort to promote abstinence.

Nobody ever told me when I was a child that there was good touching and bad. Nobody ever told me that my body was my own and I should not let anyone touch it without my permission. And nobody told me that if somebody touched my body parts and I did not want or like it, I could protest, get angry and even report it to the police.

Growing up, I experienced sexual harassment. I vaguely remember my father’s employee leered at me and tried to touch me when I was a child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. I

vividly remember vehemently hating him, though. Then, as a university student, a stranger on a train trip harassed me during the journey.

Both times I did not know what to do, although I was not exactly a timid girl.

Chats with friends and colleagues revealed I was not alone. As children, many of my friends experienced harassment or attempts at it. A recent article on magdalene.co tells of the courageous account of Devi Asmarani, about her own experience as a child.

The Jakarta Post on May 17 published interviews with a criminologist and anthropologist who both said the high number of published cases meant many parents were more aware of pedophiles being real threat to their children.

Parents owe this necessary jolt to the 6-year-old pupil at JIS and his mother.

Since their case was made public, followed by that of Andri Sobari a.k.a. Emon from Sukabumi, more parents asked the right questions to their children and more children learned that there is good touching and bad.

As a mother of a 1-year-old boy, I learned from the recent cases and quickly came to a resolution that when it comes to sex education I will adopt a truly Western style of parenting.

I will teach my son the Underwear Rule (underwearrule.org), a valuable educational multimedia tool courtesy of the Western world (Council of Europe), as well as the Talking about Touching program from the US-based Committee for Children (cfchildren.org).

Many parents have come to the same conclusion as me, but to those who haven’t yet decided, and to all those officials in a state of denial, please embrace this element of Western culture to protect our children.

Educating them about this is important because it will give them the voice to say “no”.

Our Eastern taboos, combined with our ignorance of sex education, has inflicted a very high cost on our children.


 

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