Despite being famous for its transgender community, Thailand still discriminates against LGBTIQ+ students through an education system where gender diversity is perceived as ‘severe deviance.’
Thailand’s sex education system is notorious for discriminating on the basis of gender identities.
One sex education textbook for grade seven students asks, “Is a male who has sex with both males and females considered sexually deviant?”. The ‘correct’ answer according to the textbook is, “He is a deviant since he has sexual needs with both genders at the same time, a severe mental deviance”.
Wichit Wongwarithip, a researcher, has found that Thailand fails to deliver on the basic foundations of sex education -- gender diversity, gender equality and safe sex.
Wichit said that Thai sex education still sticks to traditional values of heterosexuality and patriarchy. Thai textbooks often assert that LGBTIQ+ gender identities are caused by broken families. Although textbooks state that humans deserve equal rights regardless of their gender, they also demand that people follow gender norms.
“Society tends to think that ‘good morals’ are the solutions to all problems and that Thai culture is the best. The education system shapes that society,” said Wichit.
Instead of encouraging safe sex, Thai education overwhelmingly tells school girls to remain virgins until they are ready to form a family. In extreme cases, some textbooks categorise masturbation as deviant behavior and recommend meditation to suppress sexual needs.
Jiraphon Arunakon, Director of the Gender Variation Clinic, says that sex education as taught in Thailand lack scientific knowledge. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) removed homosexuality from disease status in 1990 and Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health announced in 2002 that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.
Parit Chiwarak, an education activist from Education for Liberation Network, believes that most students do not believe everything stated in textbooks anymore. Students read textbooks just to pass an exam but do not take them seriously.
“We all know that Thai textbooks are problematic. They are sexist. But every cloud has a silver lining. Do these textbooks really shape student’s belief? I don’t think that students nowadays perceive LGBT people as deviants. Students these days are not stupid. It’s self-destructive [for the education system] to write things that oppose ordinary people’s belief like this in textbooks,” stated Parit.
Apart from its rampant gender discrimination, Thai sex education has failed to decrease Thailand’s notoriously high teenage pregnancy rate. In 2014, some 334 babies were born daily by mothers aged between 15 to 19.
Seminar 'Gender diversity in Thai textbooks: Analysis on sex education for secondary school' was held on 29 November 2016