Youths warned: no sex on Valentine’s Day

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
A shopkeeper with Valentine’s Day gifts for sale. KT/Mai Vireak

The government once again renewed its annual call of abstinence among youth on Valentine’s Day, reminding them not to engage in or be pressured into sex during the special day as it ran counter to Khmer values.  
Speaking at the launch of the Strengthen and Test Yourself system for grade 12 students’ internet usage at the Education Ministry yesterday, Minister Hang Choun Naron reiterated that Valentine’s Day was not a day for youth to indulge in sex with their partners, but rather a day to demonstrate their love for their parents, siblings and friends.
He added that the ministry had widely published information about abstaining from sex to ensure that students behave in line with modest Khmer traditions.
“I ask that the youth understand the true essence of the day and…I ask that the youth maintain the traditions of the Khmer culture,” Mr. Choun Naron said.
The Ministry of Culture and Arts also issued a letter appealing to parents and authorities at various levels, especially those dealing with young people, to contribute to preventing, guiding and warning the youth against using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to engage in sexual activities. The letter said such “negative acts” were contrary to local customs and could impact their futures as well as dishonor themselves and their families.
“What expresses love includes gathering, talks, writing letters, gifts and other offerings like flowers to show that you care or love someone. Not just romantic boy-girl love,” the letter, sent out on Sunday, read.
Women Affair’s Minister Ing Kantha Phavy, through the Neary Ratanak radio station, has also attempted to educate the youth about the dangers of unprotected sex and advised them to celebrate the day in other ways.
The ministry will also be broadcasting a message through the telephone system to remind the youth of the ills involved in underage and unprotected sex.
The Tourism Ministry has also previously instructed guesthouses to be on alert during Valentine’s Day to ensure that underage customers do not book rooms without adult supervision.
Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It is recognized as a cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world.
In Cambodia, the day is also referred to as “Boyfriend and Girlfriend Day,” which has created a stigma that the youth often have sex, or pressure their partners into having sex, on this day.
Local media quoted a 2014 survey in Phnom Penh as saying last year that 15.8 percent of young people aged between 15 and 24 were planning on having sex on Valentine’s Day.
Of those surveyed, 4.8 percent of the young men said they would force their girlfriends into having sex, while 40.4 percent said they would attempt to coerce their partners.
This prompted Flicks Community Movie Theaters, a volunteer-run co-op theater, to create a video asking Cambodian men not to pressure their partners into sex during Valentine’s Day, saying instead that women only wanted respect.
“What do I want for Valentine’s Day? I want to get what all girls deserve on Valentine’s Day. Respect,” various popular icons including celebrity Meas Soksophea, Olympic athlete Sorn Seavmey and TV presenter DJ Nana said in the almost two-minute long video.
“And that means no pressure to do things we don’t want to do,” actress Phin Sodalis says.
“No ‘but if you loved me you would sleep with me,’” activist Vun Em adds.
“Because the most romantic day of the year shouldn’t be the day we’re most likely to be raped or harassed,” DJ Nana states.
The video has been viewed 8,715 times and shared 107 times on Facebook since it was first posted on Wednesday.
Sex education in Cambodia is still sparse as local taboos discourage open discussion on the topic. Sex education is being taught in nine provinces and the government is now planning to expand the program to include all schools nationwide come 2019.
The program, which started in 2013, taught students in primary, secondary and high schools about safe sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, gender-based violence, abuse as well as sexual diversity and orientation.
The Education Ministry also reportedly said earlier last year that it would review its curriculum and make it a core subject for grades five to 12.
However Sek Sokhom, the youth health program manager at the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia, was quoted as saying that the government also needed to address the cultural taboo surrounding the topic of sex as some teachers still opt to skip the chapters on sex education, deeming it a “sensitive issue.”

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