Call to review sex ed, allow egg-freezing for non-medical reasons

Efforts are needed to change society's mindsets on gender norms and stereotypes so that greater fairness and equal respect between genders can be achieved, said the Women's Wing and youth wing of the People's Action Party (PAP) in a joint paper on women's issues.

Noting that attitudes towards gender roles and sexual respect are formed at a young age, the groups yesterday recommended that the Ministry of Education (MOE) carry out timely and regular updates to its sex education curriculum to respond to current issues and trends.

Schools should also create safe spaces for students to ask sex-related questions, they said, and steps should also be taken to equip parents to have such conversations with their children at home.

Speaking during a press conference on the paper, Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam acknowledged that the content of sexuality education programmes is a sometimes controversial subject where different views from various communities have to be taken into account.

It is challenging to develop a good curriculum, but treating sex and related topics as taboo is not the solution, she stressed. "If you don't teach your kids early enough or you don't tell them about this content or find a way to actually meaningfully educate them, they are going to find it elsewhere, and that's going to be worse."

Nee Soon GRC MP Carrie Tan said many young people are facing mental health struggles related to their sexuality.

"It is my view that when the Government approaches sexuality education, it has to be objective and devoid of any kind of values imposed by any religious groups," she said.

"The role of MOE is to provide objective information on the various struggles and issues that teens and youth will be confronted with, and then the parents need to augment that by their own education at home, based on their own faith or values."

Ms Tan added that adults and institutions should give young people room to arrive at their own understanding of their sexuality and development issues, while empowering them with knowledge and trusting them to express themselves and make the right decisions.

For workplaces, the paper said there should be a tripartite effort to promote open and safe reporting of harassment as well as a zero-tolerance approach.

The paper also recommended lifting the ban on egg-freezing for non-medical reasons, but with a regulatory framework and conditions put in place.

"Singapore is well known for our world-class medical hub with highest quality standards. People come to Singapore to seek medical care, but for egg-freezing, Singapore women go overseas to do so," said Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui.

She added that this causes stress for these women when they decide to use the eggs, as they either need to fly to the country where the eggs are stored or have them sent by courier to Singapore.

Other recommendations include creating a national reproductive health screening programme for married couples, as well as a network to help single mothers access support and resources.

Rei Kurohi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Call to review sex ed, allow egg-freezing for non-medical reasons'. Subscribe