Early marriage of girls (at 13-16) is common in some rural communities, particularly among some ethnic minorities. This partly reflects the subsistence rural economy, low levels of education, and low access to SRHR. The GoL may tolerate development cooperation projects that address these issues. However, there is also a more culturally and politically sensitive issue of older men, particularly from the Hmong diaspora, taking a wife or concubine in their home region, as well as Chinese men who face a shortage of potential brides because of sex selection in response to the one-child policy of the People’s Republic of China.
There is anecdotal evidence of high youth suicide rates, in a context of rapid cultural change, and migration. There is an almost total lack of counselling and support services adapted to children.
The abuse of drugs is rising rapidly. Over the last 6-8 years it has extended from urban areas to the rural communities where most Lao live. Traditional rural drug use was confined to opium smoking among older men, and young women were generally empowered to select a non-smoking husband. However, drug use has now spread to all age groups including older children. The preferred drugs are Yaba (metamphetamine and caffeine), alcohol and tobacco. Laos has the highest alcohol consumption in South East Asia.
There are few facilities for play and recreation. When not in school, most Lao children are busy assisting their parents.
The education system is characterised by multiple systemic failures. Teaching is of poor quality. Curriculum reform is stalled. There is an oversupply of teachers in urban areas, and a chronic shortage in rural areas. DPs are still supporting the recruitment and training of new teachers, in response to the priorities identified by GoL. There is no second language teaching, even though a majority of Lao live in non-Lao speaking or multi-lingual communities.
Among the Member States, France has a small grants programme for CSOs, some of these projects relate to children, particularly in the area of handicap. The UK provides support to the National Commission for Mothers and Children on violence against children, particularly on tackling online exploitation of children, and achieving best evidence when interviewing child victims of violence (GBP15,000). The UK also provided a grant to one CSO for a project promoting the safe and responsible use of Facebook (SARUFP, GBP4,960) in light of the new decree on “management of information on social media”.