Experts call for compassionate policies as teen attempts to bury newborn
A 15-YEAR-OLD girl’s recent attempt to bury her newborn baby alive, apparently out of fear that others would find out about her pregnancy, underlines her desperation and the crying need for help, according to activists and social workers.
“I hope the relevant authorities will focus on remedial measures and rehabilitation, not punishments,” AIDS ACCESS Foundation director Nimit Thien-udom said.
His comments came after the girl was arrested in her hometown in the Chumpuang district of Nakhon Ratchasima province last Thursday. There is the possibility that she may be charged with abandoning her child and attempted murder.
Police were able to trace to her, after receiving reports that she had bought unusually large quantities of sanitary napkins. Her baby boy was rescued in time from under the soil.
A local man Usa Nisaikha, 41, heard a dog barking and a baby crying in a cassava plantation in Tambon Thalad and hence rushed to the spot. He saw a part of the baby and quickly pulled the child out of the soil.
The parents of the 15-year-old girl have now expressed their intention to take care of this baby.
Somwong Uraiwattana, deputy director of the AIDS ACCESS Foundation and the head of Aids and Unwanted Pregnancy Hotline 1663 project, said the issue of women and girls who had unwanted pregnancy acting in desperation – as in the case of this teenager – stemmed from Thai authorities’ policy to deny them the right to abort.
“Such cases of girls suffering life-threatening massive bleeding and injury from undergoing illegal abortion or disposing of foetuses at places would also persist if Thai society would not give enough options to those having unwanted pregnancy,” he warned.
He pointed out that Thai society’s negative attitudes towards premature sex and unwanted pregnancies did not help establishing a good system to provide options to these affected women and girls – the later of whom also weren’t taught sex education in school in the way that was relevant to lifestyle. So, when they had a problem, they acted out of desperation.
Nimit said that when such cases happened, the media should not rush to label the girls or women involved as “horrible mum”, “cruel mum” and “loose woman”.
“Just report facts and try to offer solutions to such problems,” he said.
According to him, related state agencies must ensure the teens in need of safe and legal abortion would get it as per the Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Act 2016. Also, there should be easier process for women with unwanted pregnancy to hand over their babies to adoption or welfare homes
“I also hope that there will a welfare home for children in every province,” Nimit said.
In the past six months, the Aids and Unwanted Pregnancy Hotline 1663 has received 11,085 calls seeking advice on unwanted pregnancy – a 30 per cent increase from the same period in the previous year. About 29 per cent of those having unwanted pregnancy were girls under 20, he added.
Abortions are legally allowed in Thailand only when pregnancies result from sexual attacks, there are serious foetus development problems, or it could hurt the physical or mental health of the mothers-to-be.
Trairat Witthayanumart, the chief of Chumpuang district, has promised to coordinate with the Social Development and Human Security Ministry on the rehabilitation of the traumatised teen.