The Thai legal system and single motherhood in Thailand
Single parenting, particularly single motherhood, has become more widespread and recognized in Thailand. When the single parent is the mother, much of the burden rests on women. This article is an attempt to explore how the Thai legal system deals with and prepares for such situations.
The legal system as related to single mothers can be divided into two categories. The Private Child Support is a system in which fathers are expected to share the responsibilities associated with raising the children. The Public Child Support, on the other hand, is a system in which the state is supposed to intervene and be responsible for taking care of the children in single mother families.
Through exploring the Thai legal system concerning single mothers, we have found that there are laws providing for both private and public child support systems including the Family Law, the Social Security Act and others. According to all of these laws, fathers are expected to help take care of the children with additional support from the state.
In order to garner support from either fathers or the state, however, single mothers have to overcome various obstacles related to the legal conditions and procedures associated with claiming their rights. It has also been found that a number of women do not understand the process or are not capable of accessing their rights as provided by law. As a result, single mothers have to take on the burdens of raising their children alone. The Thai laws should be changed to make more effective single mother parenting possible.
Article by Somchai Preechasilpakul
Child Support policy after divorce: Experiences from abroad
The study is an attempt to explore child support policy after divorce/separation in the contexts of various countries through literature relevant to public policy and regulations dealing with the issue in each of the countries.
Responsibility sharing after divorce/separation is related to the issues of child rights and laws and regulations that require sharing financial responsibility for childcare and child support after the end of marital relationships.
The system of responsibility sharing after divorce/separation can be divided into two categories including 1) a system in which the state is required to provide for child welfare, as in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Finland, Norway, etc. where the state shall take part in child care responsibility and 2) a system in which the state is not required to provide such support, but parents are obliged to take care of the responsibility.
One strength of the sharing system for childcare after divorce/separation is, at the micro level, in each family where the mother is not legally married she shall receive economic support, and at the macro level, the parents are forced to take responsibility in childcare, which helps to reduce the state’s cost on social welfare.
When looking at the downsides of sharing financial responsibility, financial capability of the father and the negative ramifications of imposing childcare on spouses who are not legally married have to be taken into account. From a feminist perspective, the policy simply leads to the reproduction of stereotypical gender relations (mother as caretaker/father breadwinner). In addition, father’s rights groups demand the regulations be changed to make childcare responsibility sharing fairer to the father.
Article by Bussakorn Kardmanee
The discourse of single motherhood in Thailand
The article explores the discourse of “single motherhood” in academic works and research completed in the last three decades (BE 2520-2550 or 1977-2007) in Thailand. It aims to find out how academic knowledge has shaped reality, information and thoughts in society regarding the meaning of single motherhood.
The study is based on literary research including publications, dissertations, research studies and articles published from 1977-2007. Based on the literary research, discourses concerning single motherhood in Thailand can be categorized into three groups:
The first is the depiction of single mothers as “desperate persons in need”. The works tend to treat single mothers as a problem that needs to be addressed. They are perceived as vulnerable, fragile and in need, as well as not able to raise their children by themselves.
The second is the depiction of single mothers as “lonely, but not alone”. The works tend to treat single mothers as capable actors who are strong and can organize to help each other. External support tends to come from either informal or formal social networks. This support enables single mothers to earn a living and raise their children.
Finally, the third group is the depiction of single mothers as “insurmountable fighters”. The works tend to describe single motherhood evolving from a complex process. The single mothers are viewed positively as women who are strong and determined to bear any burden and raise their children.
All in all, the majority of academic works and studies tend to treat single motherhood as an undesirable product and a problem to be addressed. This should be attributed to the long-standing traditional family discourse that has taken root in Thailand and has influenced previous works and studies.
Article by Bussakorn Kardmanee
The discourse of “fatherhood” in Thailand
This study is an attempt to explore discourses regarding fatherhood during different periods of history in Thailand and among other things, how they are different depending on the time period. It draws from speeches, writings, interviews and social actions concerning fatherhood in five magazines including Sakun Thai, Ku Srang Ku Som, Bangkok Weekly, Mae Lae Dek, and Phabpayon Thai.
It has been found that during the 2520’s (1970’s) fathers were viewed as the family breadwinners, leaders and protectors of their wives and children. Wives were responsible for domestic work and caring for their children and husbands. Fathers generally had a reputation for being, among other things, “womanizers”, lady’s men and sex gurus. Towards the 2530’s men began to receive strong criticisms against their strict rules, womanizing, lady’s man reputation and indulgent father role. Beginning in the mid-2530’s the image and role of fathers began to shift from “womanizers” to “family men”.
In this type of fatherhood, men are supposed to remain faithful to their wives and children and engage in activities like story telling, drawing pictures and singing with their children. They also may take their families out for dinner and plan for outings during holidays. It should be noted that middle class magazines tend to stress only the typical roles of fathers and their relationship with the children. The lower class magazines, on the other hand, advertise not only the father’s duty to his children but also his responsibility to help with domestic work, refrain from using violence against his wife and move beyond the traditional focus on women’s virginity. It could be said that lower class fatherhood tends to be more “progressive” than that of the middle class, since the fathers are expected to be good fathers for their children as well as good husbands for their wives.
Article by Sanoh Charoenporn
“Voices” and stories of middle class single mothers
The article is an attempt to feature “voices” of middle class single mothers and to come to terms with the lives of women after divorce, especially as they raise children by themselves. The issues are viewed in light of economic, social and cultural aspects. In addition, the study reviews the policy single mothers have proposed to the government concerning welfare arrangements for single parent families.
In light of the fact that the researcher herself was a single mother 30 years ago, feminist approaches are used in this research. The research was made possible with the help of five single mothers living in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi. There are three factors that greatly influenced the study’s findings.
In the past three decades, single mothers had to endure rather limited public spaces. Over the past ten years, more attention has been given to “voices” of single mothers. This study found that before deciding to divorce, women took time to ponder their situation and endured pressing problems for quite a period of time. Divorce was by no means an impulsive decision. Rather, there were critical junctures that led up to the decision, most of which were related to concerns about the impacts on their children. Such concerns prompted these women to venture out of the traditional family relationships that are still the major paradigm for a majority of families. The women had to withstand a lot of resistance from society against the decision they made.
Though economic problems are a major concern for single mothers who decide to live by themselves, it has been found that their relatives have made appropriate contributions to help them in different ways. Given that the state does not realize the existence of single parents, there are no welfare programs that provide for this group.
Single mothers assert that the state should create policy that caters exclusively to the needs of single parent families, including affordable childcare in every province, childcare services in governmental offices and job openings for single mothers. In addition, the state should provide funding for boarding schools for children from single parent families so as to assure parents that their children are being taken care of while they work to earn a living. Finally, subsidies should be made available to single parent families and vary depending on the ages of the children.
Article by Supaporn Asadamongkoln
Becoming a single mother in the city
The article is derived of interviews with eight case studies. They are women who are responsible for raising their children after divorce or separation. Their ages range from 34 -51 years and they are regular employees of either the state or private entities. There are two major components in the article. First, it reflects the experience of women prior to the divorces or separations. Second, it is concerned with how they adapt to their life after the divorces or separations.
From the study, it was found that after marriage, all women had devoted their life entirely to forming a “new family” structure. The husbands tended to pay more attention to their world outside the homes, their friends, their nightlife, and having extra-marital affairs with other women. This left the women to take on the economic burden of their families throughout the life of the marriage. All of these factors contributed to the decision to divorce.
According to each of the case studies, after the divorces none of the ex-husbands have shown an interest in taking on the economic burden or role as a father. Though a legal note was made in some cases during the divorce procedure that obliged the men to be responsible for raising the children, none of them have become effective parents. Because of their ability to work, good educational background and good relationships with their ex-husbands’ families, as well as their expectations concerning the response of their ex-husbands, the women were very happy with their separations and did not care if their ex-husbands would come forward to take responsibility for child rearing after the separations.
As a result, now the women have to work harder to earn more income and seek various alternative sources of extra cash. They are also left to cope with the situation in which their children are labeled “fatherless” amidst the conventional notion that a perfect family consists of a father, a mother and a child. During their adaptation to this new single parenting life, apart from help from a network of relatives, the women are also greatly supported by new social networks including single parent networks.
Article by Ladda Prasopsombat
Fatherhood after the end of marital relationships
The study is an attempt to identify the meaning of fatherhood after the end of marital relationships. It involves the exploration of experiences and stories shared by fathers who have been through the experience. Because Thailand is transforming from “an agricultural society” to “a modern society”, special attention has been paid to the life experiences of fathers living in semi-urban and rural areas. Fatherhood in urban settings, however, has been chosen as a case study for comparison as well.
It has been found from the study that each father living in semi-urban and rural areas has to struggle with urban pressure. They have to try to strike a balance of time and space between their professional lives and time spent with their children. As a result, most fathers living in semi-urban and rural areas choose to have their relatives help with certain things. Some choose new technologies like mobile phones in order to minimize time they would otherwise spent on the road to their workplaces so that they have more time with their children.
After the end of marital relationships, fathers in urban settings opt to use the law to deal with any conflicts arising from childcare. Meanwhile, fathers living in semi-urban and rural areas opt to rely on their family. Nevertheless, as they have to depend on an urban lifestyle for their professional lives and purchase of goods and services, the definition of fatherhood in this case depends on both family and individualism.
Because of individualism and a hectic life in the urban setting, most fathers living in semi-urban and rural areas choose to define their fatherhood by offering experiences different from the day-to-day life of their children and tend to impart an adventurous life to their children, rather than paying attention to the details of everyday lives.
As for when the children are taken care of by the fathers or the paternal relatives, a couple of reasons have been found to help the fathers and relatives overcome the stereotypical view that a child should be living with the mother. Firstly, the fathers in this case think they are better off economically. Secondly, they want to keep the heirs of the family with themselves.
Article by Pramote Pakdeenarong