CHIANG RAI –– Thailand will not overcome its growing problem of teenage pregnancy without collaboration from all sectors of society, health experts said yesterday at a national conference.
Krissada Raungarreerat, Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) manager, told the 1st “National Conference on Healthy Sexuality: Teenager Pregnancy” that parents, teachers and organizations must push a message of healthy sexuality to bring down the high rate of teen pregnancy.
Besides the immediate social and economic problems, he said teenage pregnancy is also associated with other serious problems, such as HIV/Aids, other sexually transmitted diseases and sexual violence.
A United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, “Motherhood in Childhood”, noted that while the overall birth rate in Thailand is decreasing, pregnancy among women under the age of 20 is rising.
The report quoted statistics from Thailand’s Department of Health showing there were 801,737 births in 2012. Of those, 129,451 mothers were aged 15-19 — about 5% of the population of that age group, up from around 3% in 2000.
Furthermore, figures for 2012 reveal that 15,440 adolescents aged 15-19 had repeat pregnancies. An alarming 880 adolescent mothers gave birth for a third time.
In addition, 3,725 girls were pregnant before reaching the age of 15, the UNFPA reported.
Caspar Peek, UNFPA’s Thailand representative, said curbing teenage pregnancy is difficult in many countries because sexuality is a sensitive issue, overlapping the areas of politics, culture and ethics.
“So adults must give advice about sex to children based on facts, and not teach them based on their own bias.”
Countries that successfully reduce the teenage pregnancy rate invite parents and teachers to work together to provide sex education to children at a relatively young age.
In Thailand, however, schools avoid sex education because they fear it will encourage youths to have sex, the experts said.
Many schools’ executives also rejected proposals to install condom vending machines in or near schools, and also rejected non-governmental organisations’ offers to provide extra sex education programmes.
“Government agencies must work together to solve [teenage pregnancy] problems. Don’t let teenagers solve problems by themselves,” said Vichai Chokevivat, ThaiHealth’s deputy chairman.
“Government agencies must educate children to deal with these problems.”
The United States, he pointed out, has had success in curbing teenage pregnancy by promoting birth control methods and encouraging them to reject unsafe sex.
Meanwhile, in Britain, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, established with the Abortion Act of 1967, supports reproductive choice by advocating and providing safe, affordable services to prevent or end unwanted pregnancies, which has curbed teenage pregnancy, he said. By – Paritta Wangkiat