PETALING JAYA, April 22 — Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies don’t take a back seat just because a pandemic is underway.
In fact, a dwindling lack of access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) resources during the movement control order (MCO) means it’s more important than ever to arm yourself with the right knowledge when it comes to safe sex.
Malaysian non-governmental organisation (NGO) FYI KL has taken to Twitter to highlight these issues in a hashtag called #SembangMalamJumaat (#FridayNightChats), where they discuss topics such as how to tell if you have an STI and avoiding unplanned pregnancies during the MCO.
Sejak aku start tweet pasal #RancangKehamilan semalam, berderu dm masuk tanya pasal isu ni. Sis faham, korang malu nak tanya depan2. Makanya, malam ni, aku akan jawab satu per satu soalan korang k! Jom start Sembang #MalamJumaat pic.twitter.com/XINbZg59mx— #semBangMalamJumaat| Nora (@fyiKL) April 10, 2020
FYI KL social media coordinator Nuraini Rudi said the idea for #SembangMalamJumaat came about after NGOs noted the lack of digital resources on SRH.
They held their first session on Friday night, April 10 but were met with shocking news when it was announced that all National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) centres would be shuttered until the MCO lifts.
FYI KL’s role has since taken on a renewed importance as they work to fill in the gaps and address the SRH concerns of Malaysians via social media.
“We recognise that digital information on SRH is limited and there hasn’t been any needs assessment conducted to date with regards to the impact of Covid-19 on SRH.
“Judging by these gaps and the minimal engagements between the government and the people on SRH in relation to Covid-19, we decided to fill in that void,” Nuraini told Malay Mail.
She added that the hashtag #SembangMalamJumaat was chosen to reflect the real-life experiences of individuals instead of being just another presentation of dry facts and figures.
The hashtag refers to the euphemism behind the phrase “malam Jumaat” which is used by Malaysian Muslim couples to refer to lovemaking on Thursday night.
Nuraini said the tongue-in-cheek name was chosen to allow people to loosen up when talking about sex and make SRH topics more approachable.
“Because of the sexual innuendo embedded in the phrase, it often comes up in Malaysians’ daily conversations and lives to create humour, tease, and excite one another."
Hi korang! Selamat datang ke Episod 2 #SembangMalamJumaat gituuuu macam dalam TV. Berdasakan polls semalam, aku dengan ini, akan sengaja pilih topik yang korang rasa tak mungkin pun untuk korang lalui, iaitu “AKU TAKKAN DAPAT PENYAKIT KELAMIN” pic.twitter.com/DsdAHzdjdv— #semBangMalamJumaat| Nora (@fyiKL) April 17, 2020
FYI KL has co-hosted two sessions of #SembangMalamJumaat with Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM) so far and more online discussions are scheduled to take place every Friday evening.
To date, they’ve tackled a range of questions concerning birth control methods and STIs along with where Malaysians can access SRH services in-person during the MCO.
The tweets are posted mostly in Malay and can be found by searching for the #SembangMalamJumaat hashtag on Twitter.
Malaysian NGOs previously called on the government to review the move to close all LPPKN clinics during the MCO, arguing that family planning services are an essential service especially for vulnerable groups who have no other way to access contraception and SRH advice.
RRAAM member Dr SP Choong previously expressed concern to Malay Mail over a potential rise in preventable abortions due to the lack of access to birth control during the MCO.
With a global recession on the horizon, there are also worries that unplanned pregnancies could place further financial strain on low-income families in the near future.