Total sex education key to tackle teen pregnancy, lay foundation for love

national April 15, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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COMPREHENSIVE sexuality education, already required by law in Thailand, was touted at a recent forum in Bangkok as key to ensuring a solid foundation for life and love.



The forum addressed child marriage, early unions and 

teen pregnancy in Southeast Asia. 

At the forum were representatives from 10 countries, 

including Thailand, and international organisations such 

as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency 

Fund (Unicef) and the United Nations Population Fund 

(UNFPA).

“A striking number of young girls become pregnant 

without having planned to – or without having had conฌ

trol of their pregnancy,” Wivina Belmonte, Unicef deputy 

regional director, East Asia and the Pacific, told the forum. 

“When an adolescent girl becomes pregnant, her life 

changes forever. 

“Her schooling often gets disrupted, or ends altogether 

and her prospects of a job dim. The health hazards due to 

complications from pregnancy and childbirth are huge, 

and often fatal,” said Belmonte. 

Maki Hayashikawa, director at Unesco Bangkok, said it 

is essential that comprehensive sexuality education that 

goes well beyond the basic facts of biological reproducฌ

tion starts at an early age for girls and boys. They need to 

learn about sexuality both in and out of school in order to 

ensure that young people were equipped with a solid 

foundation for life and love. 

According to her, global evidence clearly showed that 

providing comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) does 

not increase sexual activity, but rather empowers young 

people to take charge of their own lives with healthier and 

happier outcomes. “Abstinence-only approaches are not 

effective in delaying sexual initiation, reducing frequency 

of sex or reducing the number of sexual partners,” she 

explained. Comprehensive sexuality education “is the core 

to addressing early unions and teen pregnancy”. 

Forum participants suggested age-appropriate CSE 

should commence in early primary school (at age 5), proฌ

viding skills in communication, decision-making, negotiaฌ

tion, gender equality and respect.

In Thailand, the Prevention and Solution of Adolescent 

Pregnancy Problem Act was launched in 2016 to address 

the country’s fast-rising teen pregnancy rate through the 

involvement of multiple ministries and civil-society partฌ

ners. 

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry shared the opportuฌ

nities created by the Act, especially through enshrining the 

rights of young people to sexual and reproductive health 

information and services. Young people themselves were 

consulted in drafting and implementing the legislation, 

setting a strong example for other countries in the region 

and globally.

While adolescent birth rates have declined globally, 

they have remained generally stagnant or even increased 

in Southeast Asia, with wide-ranging variations between 

countries. The average adolescent birth rate in the region 

is 47 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, higher than 

the average of 35 in South Asia and close to the global 

average of 50.

The highest adolescent birth rates at the country level 

are seen in Lao (94), Cambodia (57), Thailand (50), 

Indonesia (48) and Philippines (47). 

 

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