More young Cambodians aged 15-24 years old are sexually active before marriage, according to new findings from the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents and Youth in Cambodia report, produced by the Ministry of Planning with support from UNFPA. This despite the fact that sex before marriage is considered a taboo in Cambodia, where women tend to face greater social pressures compared with men to not engage in premarital sexual activity and not to admit to it. The percentage of female adolescents and youth who were having premarital sex increased from 0.2 per cent in 2000 to 1.1 per cent in 2014, while for males, despite a drop from 11.5 per cent in 2005 to 8.4 per cent in 2010, it has risen to 11.3 per cent in 2014. These figures are borne out in the fact that around 5-10 per cent of all births that occurred among women aged 15-24 years occurred within nine months of marriage. “This indicates that young women are having sex before marriage and that does not include women having sexual encounters that do not result in live births,” the report added. It is also a high-risk behavior, putting people at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and being in a sexual relationship before being mature enough to know what makes a healthy relationship can be problematic to building a healthy marriage. High-risk sexual behavior includes:
• unprotected intercourse without male or female condom use, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship
• early sexual activity, especially before age 18
• having multiple sex partners
• having a high-risk partner (one who has multiple sex partners or other risk factors)
• having anal sex or a partner who does, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship
• having sex with a partner who injects or has ever injected drugs
• the exchange of sex for drugs or money.
Reasons for high-risk behavior People may have high-risk behavior because they:
• may not understand the concern about STIs and how they are transmitted
• may not talk about safer sex practices with sex partners
• aren’t prepared or don’t understand how to use protective measures to prevent STIs
• may not be aware of symptoms of STIs
• may not seek medical care for STI symptoms
• may not have access to treatment or be able to afford treatment
• may use alcohol and drugs and have sex (drugs and alcohol impair judgment and make unsafe sex more likely).