Forum: Include topic of consent in schools' sex education syllabus

I am a parent to two teenagers, a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, which is why the article on the poll by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) and Blackbox Research piqued my interest (49% of parents able to talk to kids about sex: Poll, July 3).

Given that more than half of parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex, it is imperative that sex education in schools fills in the gaps. After all, parents have to trust that their children will make the right decisions when the parents are not around.

We can try to guide the children accordingly, but not without an effective partnership with schools on sex education.

I believe that sex education in school should go beyond topics like abstinence, the use of contraception and any possible repercussions of sex, to include a syllabus on consent.

From conversations with my children and their friends, and a recent survey released by Aware, it would appear that many young people do not have a strong understanding of consent. Many teens I've spoken to do not remember ever discussing consent in school, and are unsure how it applies in real life.

This worries me as it relates to the physical and emotional well-being of our youth. Some probably expect that going on dates, especially with someone who pays for their meals and movies, is akin to agreeing to sex and that getting consent does not need to be a consideration.

They may be concerned that they would appear uncool if they stopped to check for consent. Others may even believe it to be romantic to keep "chasing", even after the other party has indicated no interest.

Young people need to learn that anything less than an enthusiastic, informed "yes" should give them pause. Nobody is ever entitled to intimacy or affection from another person.

We need to teach our children these lessons.

Shahrany Hassan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2020, with the headline 'Include topic of consent in schools' sex education syllabus'. Subscribe