The public is almost equally split between supporting and rejecting the idea, but both sides agree that sex education is a better solution. Whether or not the plan will be realised, it is worth discussion and comparison to previous measures to promote safe sex. Last month, the National Committee on Reproductive Health Service System Development held a meeting to find ways to control teenage pregnancy. It revealed that , girls aged between 15 and 19 gave birth last year while 3, girls under the age of 15 became mothers.
Of all those young mothers, 15, had been pregnant and or given birth before. To tackle the problem, the Public Health Ministry should reach an agreement with the Education Ministry to double the number of condoms under the Condoms for Teens programme to 80 million per year using 37 million baht and to install condom-vending machines in shopping malls and schools.
In addition, it will seek to promote sex education in schools and distribute handbooks under the concept of "sex counsellor" for providing sex education to teenagers and parents. Thailand's teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in Southeast Asia and the second highest in the world, according to the Public Health Ministry's Bureau of Reproductive Health.
Last month, the bureau stated that teen births are on the rise. Girls aged account for 54 out of every 1, live births. Following those news reports, a number of pantip. The advocates noted that greater availability of condoms would promote safe sex and curb unwanted pregnancies among youths. One website member commented that sex education and safe sex campaigns are the most important, but teenagers must have more access to free or inexpensive condoms.
He noted that most teenagers are too shy or cannot afford to buy condoms from shops and dare not ask for free condoms from nurses at their schools' medical units. Thus, the installation of vending machines selling condoms at low prices in schools would be a good measure to decrease the number of teenagers who have sex without birth control.
Another member agreed with the idea, saying that vending machines would make it easier for shy students can to buy condoms. He noted that many students are afraid of being mocked by schoolmates if they are seen buying condoms because many Thais are too conservative to buy condoms openly.
Moreover, a woman commented that condoms should be available to youths by any means because using them can help curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Another man hailed the plan for being a good strategy that can kill two birds with one stone by controlling unwanted pregnancies and STDs among students and boosting the sale of natural rubber as a raw material for condoms.
Meanwhile, those who disagreed with the plan commented that educating teenagers about safe sex is a good measure but selling condoms to them through vending machines in schools is too explicit and may mislead them into thinking they can have sex anywhere. A website user said students should buy condoms at convenience stores and pharmacies rather than schools, while another user pointed out that it would be a waste of money since students would be too shy to buy condoms from vending machines at schools.
Another user suggested free condoms should be given to students at school medical units and more suitable channels. A male student commented that his school provides comprehensive sex education, but he believed the best measure to prevent teenage pregnancies is to wait to have sex after graduation.
Furthermore, some people suspected that the plan has a hidden agenda to promote the sale of condoms and may allow corruption during procedures to procure vending machines and condoms. A woman suggested using budgets to provide sex education training for teachers. She added that students would not dare to buy condoms in schools for fear of being stigmatised by teachers. In addition to the much discussed plan, earlier this month Dr Phattharawalai Taluengjit of Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine presented a research paper proposing issuing birth control cards similar to Britain's U-Card and C-Card for teenagers to receive emergency birth control pills and free condoms at participating convenience stores and drug stores.
In conclusion, although installing condom-vending machines in schools is still an idea, the shared opinions are useful for parties concerned in preparing Thailand to brace for rising teenage pregnancy and other problems caused by unsafe sex.
Pichaya Svasti is a travel writer for Life.