Thursday, 18 October 2012

Why HK Needs Sex Education

My cousin's wife is a social worker in Hong Kong and she has told me many stories of young girls found on the streets who have run away from their parents because of unstable or difficult situations at home.

These runaways then fall into even worse situations, many times dabbling in drugs and alcohol and/or getting pregnant and no where to go.

Some are as young as 12.

Usually they are picked up on the street by police as these girls should be in school. Then it's up to my cousin's wife to assess them and bring them to a women's only institution where they can stay only for a few months before figuring out what they should do.

She comes across cases like these many times a month. And her stories collaborate with a letter to the editor today from Alia Eyres, chief executive officer of Mother's Choice, a non profit that helps young pregnant women in the city.

Eyres states that while there were 760 births by women under the age of 19 in Hong Kong in 2009, Mother's Choice receives almost 3,000 calls annually to its hotline.

She explains many of the young women who are counselled by Mother's Choice are under 25, many of them are 16 or younger -- and many of the teenagers have faced crisis pregnancy many times.

Recent research from Bain & Company reveals there are over 7,000 crisis pregnancies each year in Hong Kong says Eyres, and the majority are unwed mothers under the age of 25.

To her this indicates there is not enough sex education in Hong Kong, and the Bain & Company research confirms this, saying "More than 40 percent of local schools do not receive sex education from a qualified third-party provider, and in-house provision is sorely inadequate".

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

While some young women go on to abort the fetus, others carry to full term and later give up the child for adoption.

That was the case of the baby girl my colleague adopted last year through Mother's Choice.

During the legal transfer of guardianship of the baby to my colleague and her husband in court, they received a detailed letter from the 19-year-old birth mother who was not present.

She explained she came from a broken family and was left to her own devices.

Then she got pregnant and wanted to keep the baby.

When the baby was born, she was thrilled at the prospects of motherhood, but after a few days realized she could not look after the baby, who needed so many more resources than she could provide on her own.

As a result she gave the baby up and hoped her daughter would forgive her for giving her up for adoption, but thought it was the best option for her daughter.

My colleague became emotional when she read the letter which came with a baby blanket.

She has already put these two items away for safe keeping and intend to give it to her daughter when she is old enough to understand.

Thankfully there is a happy ending to this story, but there are many more cases -- everyday in fact -- of girls in Hong Kong getting pregnant.

While it's not a social story that's exploding like the imminent surge in seniors in the city, the issue of teen pregnancies should not be swept under the carpet.

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