BANGKOK – As teenage prgnancy continues to rise in Thailand, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has called on young people to maintain the Thai traditions of modesty for women and men behaving in a gentlemanly manner.
He also promised to help affected families, especially those in the low-income bracket, in which parents don’t have time to teach their children, which can lead to social issues.
He said these children were not bad people but had to be taken care of so they could return to their education and be able to land a decent job.
The government then drew up the Prevention and Remedial Measures for Adolescent Pregnancy Bill 2016 or “Adolescent Pregnancy” Bill, which was published in the Royal Gazette on March 31 and will go into effect 120 days later – around July.
This law identifies teenage mothers as those aged between 10 and 20 and will establish a Committee for Prevention and Remedial Measures for Adolescent Pregnancy to supervise and control the direction of work towards desirable goals. The PM will chair the 15-strong panel, whose members will come from three groups.
The first eight official members include ministers of Social Development and Human Security, Education, and Public Health, plus the permanent secretaries of the Interior, Justice, Labour and Culture ministries, as well as the permanent-secretary of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. The second group would comprise five experts who are credited for achievements in public health and protection of teenagers’ rights. The third group would include a male and a female youth council representative.
The new law also states that schools are to provide courses on Sexuality Studies with content that matches each age group and with suitable teachers, who are trained or have teaching experience in the subject.
Schools were also told to create a system to help and protect students who get pregnant to ensure they are properly educated. It also states that workplaces or establishments with teenage employees who are pregnant must provide support and ensure they have access to advice and reproductive health services.
State agencies also have to help with the creation of youth and children’s networks at provincial- and district-levels in order to prevent, tackle and monitor teenage pregnancy. State agencies will also have to provide vocational training that matches the pregnant teens’ interest and aptitude before and after delivery, while also contacting related agencies to find them jobs.
Jate Siratharanon, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly’s standing committee for public health, said once the law goes into effect, schools must provide teachers with knowledge and teaching experience in Sexuality Studies. He said that since the law does not require a provincial-level committee, it would see if the national-level panel can provide guidelines for schools to follow.
“It’s good that Thailand finally has this law and that schools will be the first place to start followed by workplaces, so these children have education and job opportunities and can thus be able to create secure families in the future,” he said.
According to a study in 2000, up to four teenagers were giving birth daily, a number that rose to nine deliveries a day in 2013.
A recent survey led by Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital showed that nearly one in five girls aged between 15 and 19 had become pregnant, and nearly 80 per cent of these young mums said the pregnancy was unintended, while nearly a third had ended up having an abortion.
The survey also found that up to 10 per cent had thought of abandoning their baby at the hospital, while many were at the risk of depression or even suicide as their relationships usually fail. Jittima Panutecha, manager of the Women’s Health Advocacy Foundation’s Healthy Sexuality Program, said she was happy that the law would finally go into effect, though she thinks the bill should be renamed to “Teen sexuality” in order to cover a broader area. “Pregnancy is like an end-result. This issue involves boys and girls who must have good knowledge about safe sex and sexuality so as to be equipped with life skills. Hence the issue of teenage pregnancy will be lessened,” she said.
Jittima added that she was worried about the government’s policy to focus on reducing the number of teenage mothers. “This law would be useless if the agencies involved don’t change their way of thinking and join in the promotion of mechanisms and welfare for teenage mums,” she said.
She believed three more welfare programs should be created: a 24-hour hotline that provides advice to sad teenagers; a “temporary family shelter” that provides complete care to teen mums during and after pregnancy; and the option of girls being able to give up the baby for adoption.
By PUNNEE AMORNVIPUTPANICH – The Nation
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