Author Topic: Teen sex shame bears a heavy price  (Read 1396 times)

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Offline thaiga

Teen sex shame bears a heavy price
« on: April 17, 2013, 12:06:35 PM »
SPECIAL REPORT: Conservative attitudes create victims among our young, with pregnant girls forced out of school and into the workforce early

Dao had unprotected sex one night when she was 17 because her boyfriend felt too ashamed to buy a packet of condoms.


Two students get up close and personal in a public park in Bangkok. Thailand’s teenage pregnancy rate was the second highest in Southeast Asia in 2011.

Dao was waiting outside a minimart as her boyfriend was choosing a pack of condoms.

However, he quickly returned the pack to the shelf after a middle-aged man gave him a look of disgust.

That night Dao and her boyfriend went without. Dao fell pregnant but was not ready to have a child.

Her mother forced her to leave school after she realised her daughter was pregnant. Dao entered the workforce with limited school leaving qualifications. Now 23, she works as a cashier at a small supermarket to feed herself and her young son.

"There's nothing wrong with teenagers buying condoms," she said in anger as she recalled the episode.

"But when people looked at us in disgust, it seems our attempt to have safe sex was thwarted."

Thai society raises its young to believe sex before marriage is wrong. Despite that, it is struggling to curb a rise in teenage pregnancies.

"Society has tried to keep sex and teenagers separate," Nattaya Boonpakdee, from the Women's Health Advocacy Foundation, said.

According to the Public Health Ministry's Bureau of Reproductive Health, Thailand's teenage pregnancy rate was the second highest in Southeast Asia after Laos in 2011.

Although the overall birthrate is dropping, teen births are on the rise.

Deputy Public Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew said one of the main reasons is limited access to birth control among teens.

Out of every 1,000 live births in Thailand, 55 come from teen mothers aged 15-19.

The number of births to teen mums is 1.6.times higher here than in the United States and 10 times higher than in Singapore, Dr Chonlanan said.

In 2011, mothers aged under 20 gave birth to 370 children a day, compared to 240 in 2010.

Women aged under 15 gave birth to 10 children a day, compared to four the year before.

Dr Chonlanan said the survey found only 55% of teenagers have protected sex.

Ms Nattaya said the government's approach to solving the high rate of teen pregnancy is impractical.

The ministry has opened 835 hospital clinics in every province to offer teens advice on birth control and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

"However, few teens visit the clinics," Ms Nattaya said.

The clinics open in office hours, the same time as schools are open.

In addition, teens who want free condoms or birth-control pills need to register. "This discourages teenagers from visiting the clinics."

Ms Nattaya suggests medical staff arrange mobile clinics at schools or factories to provide sex education and create a teen network to watch over others.

"Traditional attitudes against sex get us nowhere," Ms Nattaya said.

"We can't stop teenagers having sex. We should focus on promoting safe sex and providing teenagers with access to birth-control methods."

Another problem for teens is that condoms in rural areas can be hard to find. Condoms are mostly sold in minimarts or supermarkets, while birth-control pills can be bought at big pharmacies.

Somrak, 18, who lives in a remote village in Nong Khai, said he cannot find condoms in his village.

If he wants one, he has to travel 50 kilometres to the nearest minimart.

"The price of a pack of condoms is also expensive," he said.

Academics have proposed condom vending machines be set up at schools. Critics oppose the move, however, saying they would encourage teens to have sex.

In 2010, the National Health Assembly decided the Education Ministry should develop a sex education curriculum.

But the ministry has hesitated, claiming the subject is covered as part of health education studies.

Ann, 16, from Phuket, said her teacher skipped the sex education component of the health class.

She read the chapter and recalls the content on safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases and suggestions for handling teenagers with sexual needs.

"I remember my teacher behaved as if the chapter is taboo, as something that we shouldn't talk about," Ann said.

"But I admit I want to know more. I saw a textbook talking about condoms. But I knew little about them until a senior student told me recently."

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