Saturday, 6 November 2010

Nearly 200 teenage girls give birth

Thailand had two young girls who became mothers at the age of just nine years old, according to a survey by the Provincial Administration Department.

Sex Education is needed at home and in school
The survey, conducted from 2000 to 2009, documents extensive underage pregnancies in Thailand over the past decade. Details were revealed yesterday at a children's rights forum in the North.Aside from the two nine-year-olds, the survey also said there were eight girls who became mothers at the age of 10, 15 who became mothers at the age of 11, 75 aged 12 years old, 481 aged 13 years old, 2,781 aged 14 years old, 8,999 aged 15 years old and 19,402 aged 16 years old.
In 2008 alone, nearly 70,000 teenage girls (69,387) had children - an average of 190 teenage mothers giving birth every day.
Officials who conducted the national survey predicted the amount of young mothers was likely to increase.
Chusri Chuto, a senior pro?fessional development officer at the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, said the issue of underage sex and pregancies was just one of many child problems discussed at the forum.
The forum has been held annually since 1989 so that chil?dren and youths can express their opinions, talk about their problems as part of efforts to protect their rights.
She said the northern forum called on the government to ensure children's development, protection and participation without discrimination. They wanted every agency to consid?er or give priority to issues so that children benefit.
After each region had held their own forum, their propos?als will be submitted to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva the day after the national forum, scheduled for November 19, is held.

[RAP: Away from the sensationalism of the first, bold sentence of the report and the lives of young women and girls reduced to stats there is a pressing issue here. While these girls and women are as capable as any other of loving their babies, we can assume that in the majority of cases the pregnancies were unintended and if there were safe legal options open to them many would not have gone through with their pregnancy and birth. There are of course illegal abortion clinics in Thailand, that sometimes involve small doorways, under flights of stairs around the back of small, private hospitals and the implied shame as well as prohibitive costs. But for many girls and women the research (and possible exposure) necessary to find the clinic, the costs and difficulty getting to it and the fear of an unsafe, unhygienic operation means many cannot go through with it.

Sex and relationship education in Thailand operating inside the 'sweet girl' 'bad/smart boy', "do as you're told and listen to your parents and teachers" model is dis-empowering young women and the results are evident in the report above. In addition, as reported by The Nation in July a girl who chooses or is forced to remain pregnant then faces the prospect of school exclusion and social stigma leading to problems that will last well beyond the nine-month term and very often well beyond her generation.

In 2009, The Nation reported on the need for clearer and more honest communication within familes "Some parents do not have sufficient communication with their children or ensure that they have accurate information about their bodies and the biological changes they are going through. Some even treat the issue as inappropriate. It is time that parents began to communicate with children on these issues more honestly." and schools "Sex education is absent or insufficient in schools partly because some conservatives treat the issue as taboo." Rates of unplanned teenage pregnancies and the resulting difficult process of finding a safe abortion are shown to be higher in conservative dominated areas and in girls and young women who become pregnant the rates of suicide rise. It is time for change and to grow up.

A study in Chiang Mai found a need for "targeted training and support for teachers; peer-led sex education by teenagers; story-based scenarios to promote applied learning; local development of educational materials; and use of trained sexual health professionals to address learning needs of pupils, teachers, and parents."

Young people have sex for many reasons and their reasons are usually the same as for adults. Bearing in mind that in Thailand young people's curiosity, hormones and impulsiveness will lead to sex, like they do everywhere else, Thailand needs to look at this properly. Thailand's young women and girls (and boys) deserve better, they deserve help accessing help and advice, accessing contraception, accessing learning about relationships and assertiveness to overcome coercion. If this doesn't come from their parents, teachers, and health workers it will come from their friends and from movies and online. Where that leads to, is here.]

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