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Unexpected Sex:

The Growing Assault on Thai Womens Health

By Sunun Duangchan, The Planned Parenthood Asociation of Thailand (PPAT)

12-15-2006

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The Dilemma

Thailand has a reputation for successfully promoting family planning and birth control. The program, however, is aimed at married couples and newlyweds – not young people. Thailand was among other Asian and Pacific countries that have recognized, responded to and campaigned for HIV/AIDS prevention when the pandemic first reached the country. Efforts have been made to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to promote social acceptance of people living with the disease. But none of these efforts targeted children, young people and single women.
Studies on sexual behavior reveal that young people have sexual intercourse as early as 14 to 18 years old, according to surveys taken in 2000. The study of unplanned pregnancy and abortion confucted in 2001 by the Institute for Population and Social Research found that 16% of unplanned pregnancies have ended in abortion. Moreover, 56% of abortion cases involved women between the ages of 20 to 29, and girls 13 to 19.
According to the Department of Health, 39.8% of abortions performed outside government hospitals in 1999 developed severe complications: blood infections, hemorrhaging, and tearing or puncturing of the uterus. A few women died. In addition, millions are newborns are regularly left in public areas, hospitals, and homes, or even killed. Because of this early abandonment or abuse, the babies who survive need special care and loving even more than children who live with their families.
The critical cause of unplanned pregnancy and abortion is a dearth of knowledge and information about sexuality , as well as a lack of access to services for children and young people. Parents do not talk with their children about sexuality. The 1999 Durex Global Sex Survey revealed that Thai parents had almost no role in educating their children about sex, as compared to parents in other countries around the world – only 1% while the worldwide average is 12%. Most Thai educational institutions do not teach sex education, either. School administrators disregard sex and life skill education for students. More attention is focused on academic knowledge rather than teacher-supervised activities which promote participation, thinking and analysis. Children need role models in order to learn to respect their bodies and to not violate the rights and privacy of others, both in their families and in society in general.
Unplanned pregnancies among young women are either the result of unprotected sex with their boyfriends or, worse case of all, sexual abuse from family members such as a stepfather, or from other influential people. Inducing young girl into group rape and unprotected “swinging” (i.e. switching sexual partners) are also contributing factors. Unexpected or unplanned sex is usually unprotected. Therefore women often face unplanned and unexpected pregnancy, or are infected with STD’s. Young women who are victims of rape also suffer mentally and emotionally. Whatever self-esteem they have is compromised or lost entirely. Over a thousand rape cases are reported each year. More than 500 cases were ported in Rayong Province along. The youngest victim of rape was 7 years old; the oldest reported victim was 106. Most horrific of all,  80% of the rape cases reported were executed by family members, according to the front page of the Khao Sod newspaper in July of 2004.
When young people have unplanned pregnancies, they are afraid to tell their parents and teachers and usually talk to their friends or try to find solutions by themselves, most of which are hazardous to their health. In most teenage unplanned pregnancies, the boys disappear without taking any responsibility. The women are left to their own devices, hoping that they will know what to do as the pregnancy advances. By the time they decide to seek help from government agencies, foundations, or emergency homes, they are 5 or six months pregnant. In the case of rape, women are afraid to report it to the police, especially if the attackers are family members.
Moreover, in Thailand, abortion is only legal under very limited circumstances, such as rape. But in reality, by the time a case is processed, tried and concluded, the baby is already born, and the impact of the unplanned pregnancy falls entirely upon the woman.
Women are also the ones who are blamed for unplanned pregnancies, even rape. Some are forced to leave school, some run away, and some kill themselves or the babies.

The Plight of Thai Women

Gender has a significant impact on sexual issues in Thai society. Women are expected to be housewives and be faithful to their husbands. In contrast, men are free to have many wives. Women who are widows, either legally or practically, suffer even more. {THIS NEEDS MORE EXPLANATION, AT LEAST ONE MORE LINE ABOUT WHY.}
Sometimes sex even involves blackmail. Men videotape their sexual activities with their partners to blackmail them after they break up. Cases reported to the police are lost by the women because {THEY HAVE NO MONEY FOR LAWYERS? NEEDS EXPLANATION.}
What has Thailand done so far to prevent and solve sexual problems, gender issues, and sexual abuse?

A Beginning

The Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT), a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (ICPD), has been working to establish a better life for its people, particularly in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, the prevention of violence and sexual abuse against women and children, and sexual behavior that affects the reproductive health of adolescents. PPAT has projects for family education, sex education, and HIV/AIDS prevention in schools, communities factories, and for specific population groups such as the hill tribes and Thai-Muslim in the South of Thailand.
After the ICPD in 1994 and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the work of PPAT has focused more on reproductive and women’s rights. We work in cooperation with various agencies concerned, both GOs and NGOs (DON’T KNOW WHAT THESE LETTERS STAND FOR}, such as the Ministries of Public Health, Education, Justice, and Culture, the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, and Friends of Women, as well as the mass media.
In June 2005, PPAT organized a seminar entitled “Love for Teens” in cooperation with The Thai Women’s Watch (TWW) and the Ministry of Culture with the support of UNFPA{ I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THESE LETTERS STAND FOR}. The seminar welcomed participants from seven Northern provinces and focused on unplanned pregnancy. Subsequently, a network of concerned agencies in the seven Northern provinces has been formed, and agencies in other regions are being recruited to establish similar networks.

Future Challenges

Here are some of the things we’re working toward next.

●More efforts must be made to educate the public that women and men have equal rights as human beings. This new attitude towards gender equality will help reduce unplanned pregnancy and sexual abuse against children and women.

●We must work in cooperation with GOs and NGOs to empower women to lobby for laws and regulations against the oppression of women, such as rape laws, a bill to eliminate violence against women, and reproductive rights laws.

●We must provide more information and services through websites.

●There must be more opportunities for young people to develop themselves and to disseminate SRH {?} knowledge and information to their friends, both in schools and in low-income communities.

●●We must join efforts with government agencies such as the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, Ministry of ●Justice, Bangkok Metropolitan Area, and the Tambol Administration Organizations to educate parents to better understand adolescent psychology, especially how to communicate with young people about sexual issues.

●We need to produce materials and campaign for greater awareness of the consequences of unplanned pregnancy.

●We must network with international organizations and neighboring countries to create and discover solutions and better means of prevention.

●The government needs to take serious action to control obscene media and other materials, i.e. comic books, videotapes and {pornographic?} websites. These media materials are widely available and have a strong influence on children’s and young people’s behavior.

●Finally, we must promote involvement of children and young people in preventing and solving these cultural dilemmas and  help develop a better understanding of these problems at all levels of Thai society.

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