On August 18, 2015, at Larn Luang Meeting Room, Royal Princess Hotel, Bangkok, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) together with the Standing Committee on Public Health, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), supported by the United Nations Population Fund Thailand Country Office (UNFPA Thailand), held the consultation meeting on “Situation of Teenage Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion: Driving the Draft Act on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Alleviation” to create awareness of and to solicit ideas from partner organizations involved in driving the proposed draft bill. The participants included representatives from state agencies, a network of civil society organizations working on children, youth and women, youth groups from all regions and international organizations.
Mr. Caspar Peek, UNFPA Representative for Thailand, commented at the beginning of the meeting that:
The law is not magic that passing it will result in accomplishment but rather requires cooperation from all government organizations, including the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Education, as well as civil society sector to educate and support with processes the teenagers, parents, teachers and those closest to the adolescents. Nonetheless, decision making should be made by young people. Parents are teachers are merely facilitators empowering the youth to make right decisions and have to admit that they are different. Perhaps we may specifically focus on students too much while there are also other groups, who may be even more at risk, particularly those 15-16 year olds who are the marginalized groups with low income and out of schools. Therefore, the project should be designed to cover these groups of children.
After that, Dr. Kittipong Saijeng, Director of Bureau of Reproductive Health, Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health, keynote addressed on “Situation of Teenage Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion”, pointing out the situation of population and reproductive health happening in today’s society. He also proposed the draft strategies to prevent and alleviate teenage pregnancy, including 6 strategies as follows:
- Strategy 1: To enhance life skills and comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents;
- Strategy 2: To promote the involvement of male’s role, families and community in the prevention and alleviation of the problem;
- Strategy 3: To provide quality and friendly sexual and reproductive health service system;
- Strategy 4: To arrange efficient care and remedial system and provide social welfare to pregnant teenagers;
- Strategy 5: To communicate on and promote the immunity against inappropriate cultures, values and attitudes; and,
- Strategy 6: To create mechanism in interconnecting and driving policy, supervising, monitoring, surveillance and evaluating in national and regional levels.
The following session was a discussion to elicit a driving approach, comments and suggestions to further improve the draft Act on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Alleviation proposed. The government sector suggested the advocacy of the draft Act along with the interconnection of cooperative work from all relevant sectors to contribute to preventing and resolving the problems effectively.
At the same time, the network of civil society organizations expressed their concern about this law. They viewed that some sections could affect the violation of right, freedom and human dignity of children and youth, and inconsistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And more importantly, the law lacks the participation of the private sector, including children and youth. On this occasion, the network submitted an open letter to the representative of NLA.
Another side was the voices of the president of the Children and Youth Council of Thailand and youth representatives from the northeastern region. They viewed that the draft act rather authorizes the state agencies than allows the children and youth to involve in decision making. So, they proposed all relevant sectors to provide more opportunities to children and youth to involve in the legislative drafting. The government sector should listen more to the youth. There should be more social welfare provision and protection guidelines rather than counseling. They also proposed a hearing with stakeholders. At the same time, schools should offer sexuality education curriculum that students can apply into practice.
Although there was no clear conclusion from the meeting to further proceed to the next step, Mr. Caspar Peek concluded at the end that:
There is no law that can enforce or change certain beliefs and attitudes of the people. Instead, other mechanisms are essential to alleviate the problems. However, what is much clearer is that the youth know that they need to take responsibility for themselves. Yet, they have no financial power, no condoms and cannot determine the rules and criteria of the curriculum for their education. As a result, what we should do is to support the youth to have such things through medical staff or teachers, and most importantly, the parents.
3C4Teen will follow up the progress of the drafting of the Act and will further report on it.