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Sowing seeds of love

Education show targets healthy sexuality, safe sex and gender respect

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Nok, a woman in her late 20s, has been living for nine months at an emergency home for abused women operated by the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) in Bangkok. 

A rally against domestic violence organised by the Social Development and Human Security Ministry was held in early February at JJ Mall in Chatuchak Park. It was presided over by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva amid tight security. THITI WANNAMONTHA

Over the course of Nok's three-year marriage, her husband has physically abused her nearly 30 times, with the last incident requiring urgent hospital treatment.

Nok's story is similar to those of many girls and women in Thailand. According to Thai Ministry of Public Health figures, over 50 women each day received hospital treatment for domestic violence-related injuries in 2007.

The United Nations Fund for Women (Unifem) also reported that the number of women and children receiving help from crisis centres in Thailand soared from 6,949 in 2004 to 14,328 in 2006.

Dr Maytinee Bhongsvej, executive director of the APSW, said that every year the centre receives from all areas of Thailand 500 to 600 women and children who have been victim to violence, either physical, emotional and/or sexual.

After being repeatedly beaten with a tree branch resulting in 75 stitches, Nok was referred to the APSW by a local hospital, where she has been receiving counselling.

She said that she was aware of domestic violence taking place among her neighbours, but that she did not think it would ever happen to her.

Education is a key component in preventing violence against women. Ms Moni Pizani, regional director of Unifem Asia-Pacific, said: "Working through the education system gets the gender equality and elimination of violence against women concepts across to children and youth at the time of formation of attitudes that influence behaviour."

"Sex education should also give awareness and knowledge on basic rights, prevention and protection of violence against women, including how to protect oneself against potential violence, and where to get support in case of sexual violence," she added.

Philip Bergstrom, a programme specialist in the HIV Coordination, Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Unit at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Bangkok, said: "Most people believe that teaching comprehensive sex education will lead young people to go out and have sex, but research studies conducted in 14 countries around the world have indicated that the opposite is true. Comprehensive sex education delays the first sexual experience."

Unesco Bangkok and the National Science Museum of Thailand, with support from the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and UNAids, in collaboration with Unifem, the Women's Health Advocacy Foundation and other partners, have developed a comprehensive exhibition on healthy sexuality to address the mounting reproductive and sexual health issues that are specific to adolescents.

The upcoming exhibition, titled the "Story of Love", is scheduled to open this month at the National Science Museum of Thailand in Pathum Thani and will run until June 2011.

It will provide awareness and knowledge to adolescents on all aspects of healthy sexuality, including the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, adolescent pregnancy, love and romance, gender identity, reproductive health, contraception and HIV/Aids.

It will aim to deliver an engaging and entertaining approach to sex education by showcasing accurate, factual and unbiased information through the use of multimedia display elements, including games, quizzes and hands-on exposure to condoms.

The goal is to engage adolescents in the discussion of healthy sexuality. Students visiting the exhibition will receive information on how to access Unesco's healthy-sexuality website, which showcases a wealth of information on all aspects of sexuality, including information that will not be provided at the exhibition.

Krista Clement is an intern in the HIV Coordination, Adolescent Sexual and School Health unit at Unesco, Bangkok. She is a master's candidate in sustainable international development from Brandeis University in the US. She has worked as a social worker, legal advocate and project developer on various women's

empowerment initiatives. Email her at k.clement@unesco.org .

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