UN Common Country Assessment
Thailand,
1997-1998

 

Chapter 6 : Family Life

Contents

Introduction

Violence Against Women and Children

Human Trafficking

Child Labour in Thailand

The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Family

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Introduction

The chapter on Family Life raises issues that crosscut with those in other clusters. For example, human trafficking and child labour relate closely to Working Life and the impact of HIV/AIDS clearly is a major Health issue. Nevertheless, these issues are raised here under Family Life as it was felt that the issues had much broader implications than simply the economic or the health aspects. In many ways they approach the crux of social development in Thailand: how the basic fabric of society is holding up in the face of, first, the rapid economic development of the 1980s and early 1990s and, second, in the face of the marked downturn from mid-1997. It is too simplistic to see a disintegration of the family in the face of an unrelenting westernization: equally there are domestic tensions generating constant social change. The following four issues, embedded as they are in the economic and political change affecting the country, do appear to represent real challenges for national planning in Thailand.

Violence Against Women and Children

Background

Globally, violence against women (VAW) and children, in all forms, is slowly being recognised as an issue that needs immediate action [Beijing Platform for Action, Section D]. Despite this, little research has as been conducted in Thailand into the scope or nature of the problem and very little statistical data are available on its incidence or on the effects on victims.

Data

Some data for Thailand are routinely available from the criminal justice system for criminal acts of violence against women, particularly rape. In 1995, 3,769 cases were reported and 2,668 arrests were made for rape However, it is widely acknowledged that many more cases are unreported by victims because of humiliation and fear of social stigma.

Data from womenís shelters also provide an indication of the extent and forms of violence against women (Table 1) and children (Table 2). Such data are not routinely available and are of variable coverage and quality.

Table 1. Cases of violence against women dealt with by Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, Jan-Jun 1998

 

Type (1998)

Physical abuse/battery

Rape

Unwanted Pregnancy

Neglect /Desertion

Other

Total

Jan-Feb

58

66

87

53

8

281

Mar-Apr

20

4

23

91

210

348

May-Jun

30

2

36

118

210

387

Total/Type

108

72

146

262

428

1016

Source: Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, Don Muang, Bangkok.

 

 

Table 2. Number of abused children under the supervision of the Welfare Department, 1995-1996, 1997

 

Year

Type of Exploitation

Total

Male

Female

0-5

6-11

12-15

16-18

Min. age

Max. age

1995

physically and mentally assaulted

sexually abused

41

 

55

8

 

6

33

 

49

11

 

7

13

 

16

17

 

27

-

 

5

4 months

 

8 months

14 years

 

17 years

 

 

Total

96

14

82

18

29

44

 

 

 

 

 

 

1996

physically and mentally assaulted

sexually abused

71

 

93

37

 

11

34

 

82

24

 

18

36

 

32

9

 

42

2

 

1

22 days

 

1.5 years

18 years

 

18 years

 

 

Total

164

48

116

42

98

51

3

 

 

 

 

1997

physically and mentally assaulted

sexually abused

53

 

137

10

24

 

21

4

29

 

116

6

21

 

8

4

18

 

46

2

11

 

68

4

3

 

15

-

1 month

16 years

 

 

Total

200

49

151

33

66

83

18

 

 

 

Source: Child Welfare Protection Division, Dept. of Public Welfare
(note: includes all categories of violenceĖphysical, mental assault and sexual abuse)

Issues

In recent years, awareness about violence against women and children has increased among NGO and womenís groups through training and advocacy through the media. One indirect indicator of the importance of the issue is its inclusion in the New Constitution under Article 53, which ensures "womenís right to receive legal protection from domestic violence". Another is Thailandís signing of the "Convention of the Rights of Children" (CRC). The main issues on Violence Against Women and Children are:

Human Trafficking

Background

Women and children, especially those from rural areas with little access to education, and also ethnic minorities, are the main targets for trafficking because of their unequal and marginalised status. They are forced into exploitative situations such as the sex industry, begging, or other situations in the labour market in which their services are extorted through violence, abuse of authority, deception, confiscation of identity papers or travel documents, or other forms of coercion. All trafficked victims are bonded labourers.

Exploitation of women and children in the organised commercial sex industry is similar to that of child labourers, but with a higher degree of violence. Young girls are preferred because they are more easily controlled and can be forced to serve a larger number of clients daily. Child prostitutes work long and hard hours with little sleep and for every low pay. They receive only about 40% of what they actually make, much lower than other child workers, because a large proportion of their earnings is taken away by brothel owners and others.

Analysis

In Thailand, trafficking is evident on two levels:

Apart from being a violation of human rights, trafficking exposes the victims to a number of risks:

When addressing the problem of trafficking, however, cultural elements need to be taken into account as well as poverty. These include :

Data

Current laws against trafficking:

Bilateral agreements on trafficking have also been set up with China and Laos recently. Although a number of laws exist to prevent trafficking, enforcement of relevant legislation is weak.

Data quality and needs

There are insufficient data on the trafficking of women and children, and figures or estimates vary from agency to agency. But by virtue of the fact that sexual exploitation of children is illegal and has gone underground or is ignored by officials, very little data exists as to the actual number or health status of the children.

Among the key issues are the following:

Child Labour in Thailand

Background

Explanations why children in Thailand become involved in the workforce are rooted in poverty, perceptions of the child, family, and community regarding the value of child labour versus the benefits of the educational system, and the lure of urban life offering increased social mobility.

The effects of the current economic crisis are wide spread, the decline in average household income has had a dramatic effect on households already classified as poor or living close to the poverty line. Particularly vulnerable are households in which one or both parents have become unemployed, single parent households, households that rely on income generated during seasonal employment, and poor landless workers. Child labour alleviates the burden of a family's economic crisis because in the short run, withdrawing a child from school or putting a child in income generating work is a means by which to increase a family's savings rate or income generating abilities. In Thailand the overwhelming majority of child labourers are found in the agricultural sector, but children have also been found working in fisheries, manufacturing, construction, electricity, commerce, transport, and the services sector.

It is important to note that not all work that children undertake is harmful or exploitative. In many families working children acquire life-skills while simultaneously contributing to family livelihood. Such may be the case of children who may work as unpaid labour to help sustain family run businesses and family farms. The major concerns; however, revolve around the adverse consequences that result in children who are working in exploitative situations and face hardships. They experience violations of their basic human rights and their physical and mental health is affected. Their overall health and well being and their development as individuals are compromised:

Some employers provide children with a place to live on the work site, but there is evidence that highlights the inadequacy of the living conditions. The children often are found in living spaces that are crowded and unsanitary. They are provided with non-nutritious food and unsafe drinking water. First aid facilities and health checks are either inadequate or non-existent and children are found suffering from sickness and pains in the body. There is also a lack recreation and the opportunity to participate in activities that are conducive to their development. It is important to emphasise that migrant child labourers experience the same conditions; however, they experience a number of additional complications: Migrant children may be unable to communicate in Thai and they are classified as illegal immigrants. If arrested they are usually detained and then deported.

Trends in Child Labour

The number of working children in Thailand, according to the World Bank, fell sharply as economic growth accelerated in the early 1990s. Thailandís 1995 Labour Force Survey revealed that 3.11 million persons aged 13-19 were working. This represents 9.43 percent of the nationís total workforce, and a decline from 12.8 percent in 1993.

Thailandís current economic crisis, when combined with the shortcomings of the educational system in meeting the needs of individuals, families and communities, has jeopardised this remarkable decline. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the National Economic and Social Development Board entitled The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Employment, Unemployment and Real Income, 13% of the Thai workforce is now comprised of child and youth labourers. The study also estimates the economic crisis has resulted in the addition of approximately 350,000 children, aged 13-17, to the work force. This is indeed a very serious consequence of the crisis and in the long run will have an adverse impact on the well being of Thai children and the future development of the country.

Labour Laws

Thailandís current labour laws permit the employment of children between 15-18 years of age, but specify the conditions of employment. The laws and Ministerial Regulations prohibit children from working in environments which are hazardous to their health and overall wellbeing and address issues such as: working hours; salary and benefits; overtime and holiday allowances; on the job skills and development training; location of employment; and minimum age requirements of certain jobs.

The laws are very specific in the prohibition of employing children in: slaughterhouses; gambling houses; dance halls; and establishments where food, liquor, tea or other beverages are served and where the services of prostitutes, massages or sleeping facilities are offered. The economic crisis, however, has resulted in an increased number of under-aged children engaged in labour and working in prohibited environments, such as in the sex industry. The crisis has also increased the chances of children being exploited through certain types of employment not covered by the labour laws, such as domestic worker, certain types of agricultural work and street vending.

The National Plan of Action was established by Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in 1998. The plan aims at providing a framework for preventing and solving child labour problems in Thailand. The NPA specifies the situation of child labour in Thailand, measures to prevent and solve the problems, trends of child labour, strategies and policies related.

Data needs

The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Family

Background

There is considerable responsibility within the United Nations system for the social and economic development dimensions of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as for system programming. The more strictly medical dimension has been dealt with in the section on Health and Nutrition earlier in the CCA. Among the more general developmental dimensions are the following:

Data and analysis

In Thailand at the end of 1997, there were an estimated 780,000 adults and children infected with HIV/AIDS of which 290,000 were women aged between 15-49 years old.

Another study has estimated that by the year 2000 a million and half women in Thailand will be HIV positive. These women are likely to leave some two million surviving children when their mothers eventually die from AIDS. These children will have to be cared for by their extended families and particularly by the grandparents. However, although 83 per cent of current orphaned children are taken care of by their extended families, the remaining 17 per cent became the responsibility of the community. It was also discovered that about 47 per cent of the surveyed households were faced with elderly care problems so the issue of orphans may exacerbate family and household problems within the communities.

At the family level, there are thus various dimensions to the social economic impact of HIV/AIDS on the family. For example, there will be many grandparents who will assume the role of mothers of the children left by the deaths of their parents. The burden that falls on the grandparentís generation can be immense because, not only will they lose the traditional support and care from their children, especially their daughters, but they will also have to bring up their grandchildren. There will be extra pressure on the grandparents to work to support their grandchildren in some cases and in other cases for the grandchildren to work to support their grandparents, depending on the circumstances.

The economic impact on families with HIV infected members and AIDS deaths is very high. It was found that medical care costs for each patient from the beginning of their illness until death, on average, was equal to approximately six months of the average yearly total household income(about 24,000 baht). In addition, about half of the family production was lost from the reduction in labour supply, leading to a 47.5 per cent decrease in family income. In order to cope with the double financial burden of both income loss and increasing medical care expenditure, various strategies were used by families. Fifty-two percent of the households reduced their consumption by an average of 41 per cent. The study showed that the reduction was seen to cause a serious effect on the welfare of 29 per cent of the households.. Sixty percent of households used their savings to offset loss of income. A further 19 per cent had to sell assets ranging from land, vehicles, jewellery to livestock, 11% turned to borrowing and 15 per cent of school-aged children were withdrawn from their school to enter the labour market in order to contribute to family income.

From the figures presented and discussed above, it is anticipated that, by the year 2010, HIV/AIDS will have had a vast impact on the family structure of Thailand. The family, as a micro-social unit, will have been affected by an increasing number of deaths of family members. There will also be insufficient support for the remaining members in the family in terms of health and social and economic factors. The increasing numbers of deaths may, in a worse case scenario, lead to a nation-wide shortage of labour.

Indicators for chapter 6

I. For which data exist:

II. For which data do not exist:

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Dated: 26Jan1999