A recent article in The Bangkok Post shared findings from a report that pregnancy in women under the age of 20 is on the rise. This troubling trend is something that we, at The SOLD Project, have tried to combat through sex health & healthy relationship awareness programs, counseling services, and mentorship of our scholarship students. But it is be an uphill battle.
One problem we face is the culture of silence and shame around this issue. If a teenage girl falls pregnant, the immediate reaction is to hide her away and not let anyone know. Following on the heels of that is often a forced marriage to further hide the shame. This is incredibly problemmatic for several reasons. First, though it purports to protect a girl’s privacy (or her family’s honor, more often than not), it only staves off the inevitable. Villages are small and people talk. Speculation feeds the gossip mill more than facing a problem openly and with accountability.
And what would happen to the child? Unable to afford a new baby, some families have sold their children, and mothers have sold themselves to escape their plight.
Even if that weren’t the case, other problems arise. Hiding the issue does nothing to help prevent it in future. It does nothing to teach other kids how to avoid unprotected sex. If everyone refuses to talk to the kids about the dangers of unprotected sex and how to take proper care of themselves to prevent unwanted pregnancies or the spread of disease, how will they ever be expected to stumble across the knowledge on their own? WIthout practice talking about “taboo” subjects, how can they find the fortitude to say “no” under immense pressure–especially if the lack of an obvious no is considered a yes? Ignorance is never the path to freedom.
Another problem is the enormous pressure the culture of silence and shame can put on young, undereducated, and frightened girls to go to drastic measures. In a country where abortions are illegal, such fear and shame can induce young girls to resort to back alley attempts to terminate their pregnancies. Beyond illegal, they are incredibly dangerous and pose a threat to both the baby and the mother’s lives.
We at The SOLD Project have been battling this issue for a long time. Breaking the silence is just the first step to empowerment.