What is safe sex?

Safe sex, or safer sex, is sexual activity using methods or devices (such as condoms) to reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is done through sexual contact that doesn’t involve the exchange of bodily fluids such as semen, blood or vaginal fluids between partners. Practising safer sex does not imply that one partner has an STI or is an intravenous-drug user. It is a precautionary method that reduces risk of unplanned pregnancy and protects sexual partners.

What is consent?

Consent is a voluntary, enthusiastic, and clear agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. There is no room for different views on what consent is. It is important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don’t want. Consent is freely given (without fear, pressure or under threat), reversible (you can change your mind after saying yes to sex), informed (you know what you are agreeing to and the consequences of what this  sexual activity involves), enthusiastic (i.e. an enthusiastic “yes!”), specific (all partners involved in that sexual activity must be clear about the specific acts and boundaries they are agreeing to).

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Do I need to ask for consent before sex?

Yes. Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. The only way to have sex is with the sober and explicit consent of the person you want to have sex with. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault.

Do I need to give consent before sex?

Yes. It is important to inform your partner that you are agreeing to sexual activity before engaging in it. Consent should never be implied or assumed, even if you are in a relationship or arrangement. If you are quite drunk or high, and you do not feel sober, your consent is not completely valid as you may not be completely aware of what you are saying yes to.

Why is consent important?

Communication, honesty and respect make sexual relationships better. Asking for and obtaining consent shows respect for yourself and your partner. It eliminates the entitlement that one partner might feel over the other. Neither your body nor your sexuality belongs to someone else. Watch this video for further explanation. 

Can I change my mind after saying yes to sex?

Yes. You can always change your mind after agreeing to sex, even if you are already in the midst of a sexual activity. You can change your mind for any reason (i.e. you suddenly feel uncomfortable, you didn’t know how it would feel when you said yes, you don’t want to do a particular activity, you want to slow down)

Can I change my mind after saying no to sex?

Yes. You can decide that you are ok to have sex even though you have initially said no. You can inform your partner of your desire to have sex by telling them that you have changed your mind and would like to have sex with them.

Can I have sex with someone younger/older than me?

The legal age of consent in Malaysia is 16. If you are an adult and you had sex with a minor (someone below 16 years of age), you can be charged under the offence of statutory rape. If you are below 16 years of age, your permission does not imply consent. It is very important that you take into account the power dynamics of having sex with someone older than you, especially if that person is in a position of authority (i.e. your teacher, physiotherapist, doctor, religious leader, boss, personal trainer). You must be aware when anyone tries to touch you without your permission and report them to a parent, an adult you trust or the police. You can read more about having sex with an older person here 

What do I do if my partner changes their mind during sex?

If you are in the midst of a sexual activity when your partner changes their mind, the right and only thing to do is to stop immediately. You must respect their choice and forcing them to continue is illegal and you are committing a crime. If someone is drunk or uncomfortable to continue, you do not have the right to try and convince them. You may try asking them if they are open to trying something else, or asking them to share their thoughts and feelings and making sure they feel comfortable. Sex can feel vulnerable for some people, and you should take measures to make them feel safe and secure at all times.  

How can I ask for consent?

You can ask for consent through questions such as “can I kiss you?”, “can I take these off?”, “do you want to have sex?”, “can i [fill in the blank]?”, “would you be ok with trying [fill in the blank]?”. It is always better to ask directly before initiating a new activity because saying yes to one sexual act is not saying yes to a different sexual act. Lack of resistance is not permission to continue. Silence does not constitute consent. It is always better to wait for their agreement before engaging in any sexual activity, including touching and kissing.

How can I give consent?

It is important to be clear and coherent when you give consent, and to know exactly what you are consenting to. Consent is about communication, and it is ongoing. Consent to one activity is not consent to all activities all the time. Agreeing to sex with someone in the past does not mean agreeing to it in the future. You can give consent through affirmative statements such as “yes!”, “i’m open to trying”, “I want you to [fill in the blank]” or “I want you to [fill in the blank]”.

Can my husband/wife have sex with me without my consent?

It is illegal to have sex with someone without getting their consent, even in a relationship. If your husband/wife has sex with you without consent, it is marital rape. Marriage isn’t perpetual consent. It is dangerous to assume that you are free to have sex all the time with someone you are married to. Sexual violence in a marriage or relationship is a form of domestic abuse and must be recognised as assault by the law.

If I have sex before marriage, will I go to jail?

The age of consent in Malaysia for sex is 16. Having sex with a minor (someone under the age of 16) can be considered statutory rape. However if you are a minor, please do not be afraid of speaking to a doctor or approaching a RRAAM counsellor through the Hotline. We are here to guide you to make good choices for yourself, and to help you if you are facing an unwanted pregnancy or need more information on contraception.

What is contraception?

Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy. You can get pregnant if sperm reaches one of your eggs. Contraception tries to stop this from happening. Only male and female condoms protect against STIs and pregnancy. They must be used correctly and used every time you have sex. Other methods of contraception only protect against pregnancy, so be sure to use condoms during sexual intercourse to avoid STIs.

Why is contraception important?

Contraception allows you to put off having children until you are fully ready to support a pregnancy. It can also prevent pregnancy for older women who face pregnancy-related risks. Contraceptive use also reduces the need for abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Can only men use contraception?

All individuals, including both women and men can use contraception. Male contraceptive methods include male condoms. Condoms must be used only with water based lubricants as oil based lubricant can cause the condom to tear and become inefficient. Women have more choices, such as female condoms, birth control pills, birth control injection and the IUCD. It is important for women and girls to take preventative measures on their own to avoid STIs and unplanned pregnancy. You have the right to refuse sexual intercourse with anyone who refuses to use contraceptive protection.

Is contraception expensive?

The cost of contraception varies, depending on the type and where it is purchased. Male condoms are inexpensive and easily available at stores and pharmacies, and sometimes for free at clinics. You may also obtain birth control pills and injections at government clinics for a cost as low as RM1.00. Nowadays, there are many online sources to purchase contraception from, but it is important to be wary of fake products that could harm your health. Always seek verified sources of information, and check with your doctor to ensure that you are making an informed decision. Read more about different types of contraception and its costs here.

Is taking birth control pills painful?

Most women experience little to no cramping while taking birth control pills. Some have mild cramping for a cycle or two as their bodies adjust to hormone changes, but this often decreases or stops completely. Common fears including weight gain and permanent infertility are unfounded, given that there now exist low dosage pills. Call your doctor if you have sudden or severe cramping or pelvic pain.

Where can I buy contraception?

You can purchase some types of contraception such as condoms and the morning after pill at most pharmacies. Some clinics dedicated to sexual and reproductive health do give away condoms for free. For an IUCD, hormonal implant and birth control injection, you will have to speak to a doctor or gynaecologist. Some contraception is available in government clinics.  You can also purchase some contraception online, but it is important to know what you are looking for and what is suitable for you, and to always verify the sources from which you are buying. You can get more information by speaking to a doctor or contacting a RRAAM counsellor through our Hotline for a free consultation. Check out this article to read about what to expect when getting contraception from government clinics.

Do I need a prescription for contraception?

Condoms may be purchased over the counter at stores in Malaysia, while birth control pills may be purchased at pharmacies. Methods such as the IUCD, DepoProvera injection, and Implanon will need medical care from a doctor to safely insert your chosen method of contraception into your body. It is always recommended that you visit a trusted medical practitioner for medical advice on the best form of contraceptive care and family planning for your individual needs and situation.

Who should use contraception?

Anyone who is engaging in sexual activity or intercourse should be informed about the importance of contraception and how to use it. In Malaysia, stigma around contraception means that many people are not aware that they must use protection during sexual intercourse. Contraception is a preventative measure. Using protection does NOT mean that one partner has an STD, multiple sexual partners, has engaged in sex with a sex worker or uses intravenous drugs. We must fight the limitations of stigma and be empowered to learn about and use contraception to avoid unpleasant consequences. If you know of a friend or family member who is sexually active, do talk to them about using protection as a way to look after themselves and their loved ones

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception pills use hormones or medications that block pregnancy. Most use the same hormones that are in regular birth control pills. The emergency-use pills work mainly by delaying the release of an egg or ovulation. Once implantation has occurred, emergency contraception is no longer effective.

Can I get pregnant if I use a condom?

If you use condoms perfectly every single time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect, so in real life condoms are about 85% effective — that means about 15 out of 100 people who use condoms as their only birth control method will get pregnant each year.

How do I know if I have an STD/STI?

If you have symptoms or are worried of an infection, you may do a screening at a clinic to test for STIs. These tests can cost anywhere between RM50-RM5400 depending on the test. You can do a general or specific test to find out if you have an STD. Generally, the symptoms of STIs can include unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus, pain during urination, sores, blisters, ulcers, warts or rashes in the genital area, pain in the scrotum or testicles, lumps and bumps on the genitals. A doctor will be able to advise you as to the medication needed to treat your infection. If you need advice on STI testing, please do not hesitate to contact a RRAAM counsellor to find out where you can do so. If you have tested positive for an STI, the responsible thing to do is to inform your sexual partner(s) so that they also may also get tested and treated to avoid further spreading.

Is abortion legal in Malaysia

Yes. The Penal Code Amendment Act (1989) allows a medical practitioner registered under the 1971 Medical Act (meaning all medical doctors practicing legally in this country) to “terminate the pregnancy of a woman if such medical practitioner is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman or injury to the mental and physical health of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated” (Section 312, Penal Code).These legal conditions for abortion are progressive, placing Malaysia among three fifths of countries with least restrictive laws globally. Only one doctor´s decision is necessary in Malaysia according to the law. Unfortunately, public and some private hospitals unnecessarily require the decision of two doctors. 

Do women and men know the legal status of abortion?

No. Many people mistakenly believe that abortion in Malaysia is outright illegal in all circumstances. A survey of reproductive health clients (Kamaluddin, 2008) found that 41% of the women did not know the legal conditions for abortion. This lack of knowledge is because abortion´s legality is minimally discussed in health, social welfare and women´s crisis services. Also there has been no public effort to educate women on its legal status including accurate provision of information in the media.

Do doctors and health professionals understand the legal status of abortion?

Many do not. A survey of 120 doctors and nurses found that only 57% correctly knew the law. (RRAAM, 2007) Medical and nursing curricula and the media all reinforce the same misconceptions.

Why do doctors not know about the legal status of abortion in Malaysia?

Despite broad permissible conditions for abortion, the Penal Code is a criminal law inherited from colonial times wherein the woman and the health practitioner can be charged if the law is not followed. Fear, together with negative media portrayal, has contributed to doctor´s silence and secrecy in the provision of legal abortion and prevented many doctors from providing abortion services. In reality though, in the last 20 years, doctors have been rarely charged for abortion offences, with all cases having been acquitted. 

What is the cost of an abortion in Malaysia?

This depends largely on the method of abortion (medical abortion vs. surgical abortion), your healthcare provider (some may charge more than others), and the size of pregnancy. 

At RRAAM, we estimate prices for surgical abortions to range from RM800 (for early stage pregnancy) to RM4500 (for late second trimester pregnancy).

Medical abortions can be bought online from trusted sources such as Women on Web, who charge around 80 Euros or RM350 and up.

Where can I receive an abortion?

Safe abortion service providers exist in both public and private medical centres in Malaysia. However, many women are not able to receive an abortion in government health centres due to stricter interpretations of the Penal Code.  Contact a RRAAM counsellor via the Hotline to find out where you can access a safe and affordable abortion service near you.

When can I receive an abortion?

Most service providers in Malaysia only provide terminations up to 12 weeks. There exists a 22 week limit on abortions, after which the fetus is considered a live baby. It is extremely important to seek a termination as soon as you are aware of an unwanted pregnancy, as you may have to consider issues such as finances and travel. 

How can I ensure that I receive a safe abortion?

It is crucial to ensure that you receive an abortion from a licensed medical practitioner and you are informed of the procedure and all that it entails before undergoing it. The RRAAM Hotline is a reliable provider of information on safe, affordable and women-friendly abortion services. Contact a counsellor via WhatsApp to learn more.

What types of abortions are available?

You have the option of obtaining a medical abortion (using abortion pills) or surgical abortion (procedure carried out by a licensed medical practitioner).

Is surgical abortion safe?

If done by a licensed medical practitioner, a surgical abortion does not have any detrimental health consequences. An abortion is not scary; it is a medical procedure. Be very careful about where you get an abortion, as there are many illegal practises in the country offering abortion services without a license, and may be detrimental to your health and safety. Your doctor must inform you about the procedure before carrying it out. If you do not feel safe or are unsure, you can always contact a RRAAM counsellor on the Hotline to find out where you can receive a safe, affordable and women-friendly abortion. You may also want to bring someone else with you (if that is an option) the first time you go to a clinic so that you have support and assistance should you need it.

Is abortion permissible in Islam?

Under the fatwa developed in 2002 by the National Fatwa Committee in Malaysia, abortion is makruh (not encouraged) for up to 40 days, harus (permissible) for up to 120 days and haram (forbidden) beyond that except to save the life of the mother or if there is fetal impairment. This national liberal fatwa is in keeping with the majority of Muslim countries where abortion is conditionally permitted for health and sometimes social reasons up to the time of ensoulment, usually around four months.

What happens during a surgical abortion?

Surgical abortion or Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) is a simple procedure done early in pregnancy, which uses the suction of a syringe to remove the pregnancy tissue from the uterus. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the cervix and medicines to reduce pain and anxiety may also be offered. Between 6-12 weeks, MVA is usually a fairly simple procedure, taking around 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

What happens during a medical abortion?

The abortion pills (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) initiate a process identical to a natural miscarriage. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing. The second medicine, misoprostol, taken either right away or up to 48 hours later causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. Some women describe it like having a very heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage.

Do I need permission before having an abortion? Will my parents be informed if I ask for an abortion?

If you are under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a legal guardian or a parent to have the surgical abortion. Otherwise, your parents should not be involved or informed about your personal medical decisions including abortion, if you do not wish this. For medical abortions, the abortion pills can be ordered discreetly from trusted online sources and taken in the safety and privacy of your own home.

Is an abortion induced by medication dangerous to my health?

The abortion pills (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) initiate a process identical to a natural miscarriage. Heavy bleeding may occur for days after taking misoprostol, accompanied by cramps and other symptoms of nausea and diarrhea. Spotting may continue for 1-2 weeks. Different individuals react differently to the medical abortion process. Most say that it is like a normal period, but a minority find the side effects of medical abortion potentially distressing.

How do I know if I am pregnant?

Common signs and symptoms of pregnancy include missed periods, swollen or tender breasts, nausea and/or vomiting, feeling tired, constipation, bloating and peeing more than usual. A pregnancy test can be taken at home or at the doctor’s office to know for sure. Purchasing a urine pregnancy test (UPT) from any pharmacy after a delayed period is a reliable and affordable way of knowing if you are pregnant

I missed my period. Am I pregnant?

A missed period is not necessarily due to pregnancy, but could be an indicator. If you suspect you are pregnant after a missed period, do take a pregnancy test to find out.

Is the withdrawal method effective?

For every 100 people who use the pull out/withdrawal method perfectly, 4 will get pregnant. But pulling out can be difficult to do perfectly. So in real life, about 22 out of 100 people who use withdrawal get pregnant every year — that’s about 1 in 5 cases, which is a lot. This method also does not protect against STIs. The best way of using the withdrawal method is to combine it with another form of contraception, such as a condom to reduce the risk of pregnancy and contracting STIs.

I had unprotected sex. Am I pregnant?

The dangers of unprotected sex include pregnancy and contracting STIs. Having unprotected sex does not necessarily result in pregnancy, but it remains a risk. It is always a better choice to protect yourself and your partner by using contraception such as a condom.

Should I use contraception during sex while pregnant?

It is important to always protect yourself against STIs during sexual intercourse, even while pregnant. This can be achieved using a male/female condom.

Is it normal to have bleeding while pregnant?

Some women do experience light bleeding or spotting during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Noticing this bleeding can be quite terrifying, but it is quite normal.  

Can I get pregnant the first time I have sex?

If you have started your period, you can get pregnant. Generally, younger girls are more fertile than older women and can get pregnant very easily. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you won’t get pregnant just this one time. Make sure to insist on protection to avoid unwanted pregnancy or risk of STIs.

Am I too old to get pregnant?

As long as you are having periods, you can become pregnant. While it is true that the older you get, the less fertile you are, you must consider yourself fertile and able to get pregnant until you have been without periods for at least one full year.

Do I need contraception while nursing?

Scientists have concluded that 98% of the time breastfeeding is a barrier to conception, if these three criteria are met:

  • you must be fully or nearly fully breastfeeding. This means you breastfeed in the night as well, avoid formula supplements, and have regular and small intervals between feeding times;
  • you have not resumed your menstrual periods. Any kind of vaginal bleeding after the 56th postpartum day is a warning that fertility has returned; and
  • your infant must be younger than six months.
Can I get pregnant after childbirth if my period hasn’t begun again?

You can get pregnant as soon as you ovulate. Some women ovulate four to six weeks after delivery. Others, particularly breastfeeding mums, may have their first ovulation much later. Unfortunately, this is not a good way to predict when you will need contraception, since ovulation happens before your period begins.To avoid pregnancy soon after birth:

  • Avoid sexual intercourse for six weeks after delivery. This will also allow the uterus to involute properly, the vaginal tissues to heal, and decrease the risk of a uterine infection.
  • Discuss contraception with your doctor before you leave the hospital. If you plan to go on the pill, a prescription can be given to you at this time and you can start it at the appropriate time. If you plan to use DepoProvera or get an IUCD, let your doctor know so he or she can discuss timing with you.
  • Do not depend on breastfeeding for contraception. Unless you are breastfeeding around the clock without supplementation, you probably won’t get a protective effect. Even then, you can still ovulate and conceive at any time.
  • Use condoms if there’s any possibility of conceiving.

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