It is estimated that there are some 160,000 teenage pregnancies in Thailand every year.
Very often, the girls have to drop out of school.
Thailand’s health officials are proposing a new bill to change that.
Called the Juno Bill after the hit Hollywood movie about a teenager faced with unplanned pregnancy and uncertain future, the proposed bill would provide maternity leave for students and allow them to continue their studies, instead of being expelled.
However, the potential new measures are already causing controversy.
Critics said the Juno Bill will indirectly encourage underage pregnancies but health authorities disagreed.
Dr Kittipong Saejeng, Director, Reproductive Health Bureau, Public Health Ministry, said, “Many studies show that if pregnant teens have more knowledge and can continue their studies, they will have a better future and can earn by themselves and not be supported by the family or society.”
But the realities facing a teen going back to school as a new mother may not mesh with the lawmaker’s good intentions.
A teenage mother, who requested to remain anonymous, said it will be difficult for her to return to school.
“It would be good to get the bill passed. But, to me, it would be mentally hard for me to go back to school since I was the only one among all my friends who got pregnant. It would be difficult to tough it out. I would be singled out and feel that I was the only one who had this problem. I would feel very depressed,” she said.
It is estimated that some 10,000 Thai students under 15 years old get pregnant each year.
Sex education is not consistently taught in the Kingdom’s schools.
Educators and parents sometimes shy away from discussing the facts of life with kids, sometimes to their detriment.
Unplanned pregnancies are increasing in Thailand and sex education could be a way to bring that number back down.
A new exhibit in partnership with UNESCO at the National Science Museum in Bangkok takes a frank and scientific approach to health and sexuality.
The exhibition, the first of its kind in Asia, takes on a colourful and interactive approach and is geared to answering all the questions teens may have about love, sex and puberty.
Sakorn Chanapaithoon, Business and Marketing Director, National Science Museum, said, “They learn more about themselves about their emotions about the hormones in their bodies and then they learn how to protect themselves from disease.”
The main takeaway for young people thinking about becoming sexually active is if you have sex, you are risking pregnancy and disease and the only safe sex is with condoms. – CNA/fa