Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Hotline to answer teen sex queries

BIRDS AND BEES A Web site and a telephone hotline will provide basic sex education in a bid to lower the nation's high teenage pregnancy rate

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of the Interior and the Garden of Hope Foundation yesterday launched a hotline and Web site to help teens deal with unwanted pregnancies and other sexual matters.

Taiwan has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Asia, with 30,000 teen pregnancies annually. Thanks to government intervention, however, the teen pregnancy rate declined from nearly 13 percent in 2003 to 6.62 percent this year, foundation director Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) said.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged women and children, the foundation will staff the ministry-funded hotline with the aim of further lowering the country's pregnancy rate, Chi said.

Thousands of babies from such pregnancies are entrusted to the care of others yearly "because their little daddies and mommies aren't ready to take care of them," a foundation press release said.

Presiding over the ceremony to launch the services yesterday, Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said the government attaches great importance to helping pregnant teens. Since 2004, hotlines servicing such adolescents have been established in 15 counties and cities, while the figure for social workers who focus on children has risen from 185 to 505 during Lee's tenure as interior minister, he said.

"Now we have a national hotline for these teens," Lee said.

The foundation will also maintain a "hip" Web site featuring Japanese animation to educate teens on matters of sex and pregnancy, Chi said.

Those in need of help who are too shy to call the hotline can send messages to foundation counselors via the Web site, she said.

The foundation's Web site (www.257085.org.tw) and hotline (0800-25-7085) were both operational as of yesterday, according to the release. The hotline is staffed from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday, it added.

The government-backed services are the latest efforts in a string of programs and legislation to help pregnant teens.

Earlier this month, for example, the Ministry of Education announced its plans to make a new sex education curriculum compulsory for high school students.

Among other sex-related subjects, the curriculum would focus on teen pregnancy, said Chen Yi-hsing (陳益興), the education ministry's director of secondary education.

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