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Justice System Fails Rape Victims in Thailand

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BANGKOK – Rape continues to be a major problem in Thailand because those involved in handling rape cases do not comprehend the complexity of the problem and fail to help victims get justice, say women’s rights activists.

“Rape is a continuing and unsolved problem here because it is so difficult for victims to seek justice,” said Supensri Puengkhokesoong, a member of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation.

She said that often rapists have a higher social status than their victims and use this power to commit the crime.

“Many rapists are educated or hold a high official rank,” Ms Supensri said. “The relationship between a rapist and a victim can be boss and employer, teacher and student or childminder and child.”

Justice for rape victims is hard to achieve when the victim is of a lower social status than the rapist. The legal process does not allow for this.

Records at the Police Central Information Technology Centre show 3,276 rape cases were reported to police stations nationwide last year, but in the same year there were only 169 sexual violence-related stories reported in the five popular Thai newspapers — Thai Rath, Daily News, Matichon, Khao Sod and Kom Chad Luek.

“This shows that most victims want to avoid the media spotlight, so don’t pursue legal action against their rapists. Many do not even report their rapes to the police,” she said.

“Victims feel more comfortable reporting rapes to female police officers. There are not that many female officers, and the few there are still don’t have enough awareness to understand the sensitive circumstances,” said Ms Supensri.

Sometimes, judges and lawyers ask women intimate questions that dissuade them from seeking justice. Also, when police officers neglect to issue their case reports quickly, victims run out of time to file lawsuits.

She also said that rape victims over 15 years old are often encouraged by police officers to settle out of court by pointing out the difficulties and the long legal process of testifying in court against rapists.

“The justice process must take note of the struggle women face when reporting rape. If it does not, it will push rape victims into the shadows,” said Ms Supensri.

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