Thai model launches picture books to confront sex education taboos

by Nanchanok Wongsamuth | @nanchanokw | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 17:57 GMT

International model and activist Cindy Bishop poses in front of posters from UNESCO’s global ‘A foundation for life and love’ campaign at the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence in Bangkok on Tuesday. Courtesy of Wei Chongzheng / UNESCO

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Although Thailand is one of the most socially liberal countries in Asia, sex education focuses on basic biology and anatomy, leaving many unclear about the risks

By Nanchanok Wongsamuth

BANGKOK, June 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Thai model who has spoken out about sexual harassment said on Tuesday that she will publish a series of children's books to teach young people about sex in a country where sexual abuse is rarely discussed and teenage pregnancies have rocketed.

The illustrated books by Cindy Bishop, famed for hosting popular reality TV show Asia's Next Top Model, will feature cartoons of her children and address sensitive topics including consent, safe sex, gender equality and sexuality.

"In Thailand, we shy away from teaching children (basic facts like) what to call their genitals," 40-year-old Bishop told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a conference on sex education.

"We make up names for them and don't talk about them at all. So if a girl is touched inappropriately, how can she talk about it?"

After an official said that women should cover up to avoid being groped at a festival last year, Bishop started the #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign and told her social media followers how she was assaulted as a teen at the celebration.

Although Thailand is one of the most socially liberal countries in Asia, sex education focuses on basic biology and anatomy, leaving many unclear about the risks, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which promotes reproductive rights.

In Thailand, about 1.5 million babies were born to teenage mothers between 2000 and 2014, with a 54% increase over this period, according to UNFPA, which lobbied for a 2016 law promising better sexual and reproductive health education.

In a move applauded by LGBT+ rights groups in April, the government revised school textbooks to include lessons on gender diversity, teaching that some families have same-sex parents.

Bishop uses her social media accounts as an educational tool, with her six-year-old son explaining in one Instagram video that consent is about getting someone's permission to do something, such as to taste your cookie.

"Gender bias is deeply rooted in cultural norms so we really need to address these beliefs, which are passed down from generation to generation without seeing how harmful it can be," Bishop said. (Reporting by Nanchanok Wongsamuth @nanchanokw; Editing by Tom Finn and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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