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Thailand Study Finds 71% of Disabled Women Raped Remain Silent

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Thailand Study Exposes Rape Claims of Disabled Women and Girls

A researcher in Thailand has made a horrific claim that approximately 71% of disabled women and girls that are raped do not have access to the justice system.

Research on “Violence against Women and Children with Disabilities” shows that most of their cases are kept quiet or settled because perpetrators are members of their families or people they trust.

In recent months, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), Social Equality Promotion Foundation and Association for Empowering Women with Disabilities reviewed the research and provided support.

This information is based on 51 sexual abuse cases collected from 31 provinces in Thailand over the course of last year and this year, according to researcher Thipapsorn Siwathorn.

In most cases, the wrongdoers are close to the victims, such as their father, grandfather, brother, relative or community leader.

Most assaults took place in victims’ homes, places that are supposed to be safe for women and children,” she said.

Only 29% of the victims filed complaints against their offenders, and only 27% of them were sentenced by the courts, with the rest going unpunished.

71% of the rape victims in Thailand remain silent

The reasons given for not filing a rape case include not wanting to file a case (55%), reaching a settlement with the offender (30%), or feeling ashamed or being afraid to pursue the case (5%).

A few examples of sexual violence involving women with disabilities were also presented by Thipapsorn.

Among the cases is one involving a 15-year-old with an intellectual disability in a northeastern province of Thailand. After her parents separated, she was left with her father, who was always drunk and sometimes took drugs.

Until her neighbours informed her teacher that her father had raped her, no one knew she had been abused by her father. In the middle of the night, they often heard her crying in pain.

In order to find out what happened to the girl, the teacher used a doll since she could not communicate well. Rather than describing what happened verbally, she used the doll to play out what happened. As a result, the father was arrested.

There was also the case of an 18-year-old girl with a disability from the north of Thailand. When she was 15 years old, a village headman inserted his fingers into her vagina and sexually assaulted her.

As a result of her mother’s efforts, the court sentenced the headman to prison, but the sentence was suspended.

Brother and friends raped her

One of the cases involved a 46-year-old woman with a hearing impairment. Several men raped her repeatedly from an early age.

Her older brother and his friends first raped the woman when she was five, according to Ms. Thipapsorn. When she was 11 years old, she was raped by one of her friends and a teacher.

She was raped by both her colleagues and her employer when she was 22 years old. She was sent to prison when she was 24 years old for killing her employer.

Then fast forward to last year, when she was released from jail and she was 45 years old. When she joined a course on hand language, the leader of a hearing-impaired group raped her.

A lawsuit was filed against him by her. A suspended three-year jail term was imposed on him by the Criminal Court.

Another researcher, Alisa Siwathorn, found that some bizarre beliefs also contribute to sexual abuse. A mother brought her disabled daughter to a weird ceremony every week in a remote area in the Northeast.

According to her, sexual intercourse between male devotees and her disabled daughter could heal her. According to Alisa, more cases of sexual abuse occur when locals believe in strange cults.

Preventing the cycle of violence

Due to their physical limitations, the victims had difficulty seeking justice on their own.

It may be difficult for them to receive information or even communicate what happened to them to others due to their disabilities.

In order to prevent the cycle of violence, the justice system needs to be adjusted to make it accessible to people with disabilities in Thailand.

Most victims do not go to court because they lack legal knowledge, according to Saowalak Thongkuay, a member of the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disabilities.

The majority of wrongdoers, 90% are family members, so other members of their families often oppose filing a case.

“Women and children with disabilities are human like everyone else, but most of them are treated as if their existence is unimportant,” she said.

According to attorney Arunsri Meewongtham, helping victims with communication or intellectual disabilities can be challenging because the lawyer is not sure if the victims understand legal terms or questions.

Wrongdoers in Thailand must be punished

In spite of the complicated process, it is nothing compared to the pain women with disabilities experience from sexual violence, so every party should work together to provide justice to them,” said Ms. Arunsri.

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security in Thailand’s permanent secretary, Patcharee Arayakul, says her ministry will work with all sectors to make the justice system accessible and fair.

According to her, wrongdoers must be punished regardless of their relationship with the victim.

Legal support will be provided by the departments of Women’s Affairs and Family Development in Thailand along with raising awareness about disabled people’s rights.

As we support victims in Thailand, we must encourage them to have courage and know they will not fight alone. “We will fight with them until the end of the judicial process,” Patcharee said.