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Attacks on Women and Rape Culture a Problem in Thailand

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attacks on women thailand

In Thailand, over 8,500 women are victims of physical or sexual violence each year, most of which occurs in domestic or family settings, according to the Public Health Ministry.

The United Nations has designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, according to Dr. Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Disease Control (DDC).

According to Dr. Tares, violence against women in Thailand is a major concern because of the negative impact it can have on families.

According to Dr. Tares, most women were attacked at home by male relatives who were frequently influenced by alcohol or stimulants.

Data collected by the DDC’s Injury Prevention Division from 51 hospitals nationwide between 2019 and 2021 revealed that each year, 8,577 women are victims of physical abuse.

Women aged 20 to 24 made up 15% of the total, with 60% being physically abused, usually at home.

Dr. Tares stated that girls aged 10-14 who were victims of sexual assault accounted for 31.4% of the total.

According to the doctor, violence against younger children aged 0-4 years was also prevalent and required much closer monitoring.

Rape Culture in Thailand

Dr. Kajornsak Keawcharat, the DDC’s deputy director-general, suggested that solutions should begin with the individual, the family, and the community. He emphasized the importance of equal rights and suggested encouraging a reduction in alcohol consumption and illicit drug use.

A rape case in Mukdahan province in 2020 shocked the entire nation when it was revealed that five teachers and two school alumni raped two underage female students.

While the case was tragic on its own, it became even more so when some netizens openly supported the perpetrators and shifted blame to the young victims.

A teacher is a well-regarded profession in the country, particularly in rural areas where they are involved in the school and community. Thais are taught to be grateful to teachers for educating them.

The Mukdahan case shone an unwelcome spotlight on the ugly side of this profession, which experts see as an abuse of our institutions and society’s power structure and patriarchy.

According to a recent online panel discussion on the problem of rape and power, approximately 50% of hundreds of rape and sexual violence attacks are on victims aged 11-20 years old, and perpetrators are teachers in about 5-10% of cases.

These figures are based on rape, and sexual violence cases reported in the media between 2013 and 2017.

However, as panelists pointed out, these figures are far lower than what is happening in society.

“This is a structural issue,” Varaporn Chamsanit of the Women Wellbeing program said. “It’s not just about a child being unlucky and encountering bad teachers. These occurrences occur repeatedly.

Perpetrators pay their way out

However, we never know how common it is because some cases have not been publicized. Many cases ended with both parties reaching an agreement. The perpetrators had to pay their way out. Some of the victims were also married.”

According to Jaded Chouwilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, the bureaucratic system’s authoritarian nature is held above the power of students who don’t have a say in what they want.

The structure of educational institutions also gives teachers power over students. Teachers are likely to know influential people, particularly in rural communities, such as police officers, leaders, and local politicians, which leads to many cases being settled.

“And if something bad happens, people will automatically assume that teachers, who are assumed to be virtuous by default, would never do such a thing. Then some switch to attacking young victims, “Jaded stated.

Children are obligated to listen to their teachers. And because they spend so much time together, the possibility of teachers abusing their power grows.

“In some ways, it’s a power bestowed by culture, which believes that we owe teachers. We do not respect them based on their specific knowledge, performance, or behaviour.

We do it solely because they are teachers, without regard for anything else. This mindset affects not only children but also their parents and community members, “Varaporn stated.

Jaded and Varaporn believe the patriarchy is to blame for the rape epidemic.

“Thai culture gives men more sexual freedom and encourages and coerces them to experiment.

They cheat, have mistresses, and pay people for sex, and society accepts it as acceptable. Women, on the other hand, are controlled and taught not to be promiscuous, “Varaporn stated.

Finger Pointed at Women

Jaded added that rape incidents occur everywhere due to common factors such as an inability to restrain oneself and a predisposition to exercise and abuse one’s power. Alcohol can also act as a catalyst.

When a rape case is reported, the finger is frequently pointed at female victims. People have concluded that the victims invited trouble by how they dress, the time they choose to commute, and even the location they happen to be in.

With the Mukdahan case, social media erupted when a fellow teacher posted encouraging the perpetrators and expressing concern for their wives and families while accusing the students of being ungrateful for making the rape public.

“If you don’t want your children to be raped by teachers, homeschool them,” the Facebook post advised.

According to Varaporn, showing support for rapists while condemning victims demonstrates that people accept violence and, as a result, support rape.

“It’s as if they’re joining the perpetrators in raping and injuring victims again,” she explained.

Victims attacked by their peers

Thicha Na Nakorn, an adviser to the Foundation for Children, Youth, and Families, stated that she has met with Mukdahan victims. They, too, have been attacked by their peers for humiliating the school by exposing the teachers’ crimes.

Thicha hoped to see the Minister of Education personally visit the victims and express gratitude for their bravery in bringing this story to light. This is to deter supporters of the rapists while assuring society that justice will be served.

She stated that victim blaming was common in previous rape cases, which harmed the victim’s self-esteem. She believes empowering victims is critical because it influences their fight to prosecute the perpetrators.

“Empowering victims can imply shifting their focus so that they are no longer fighting solely for themselves and their families. A victim of a previous rape claimed that a higher power chose her.

She didn’t want this to happen to anyone else, so she pursued the case. This is a powerful mindset, “Thicha stated.

“The process of empowerment can transform a person from surrender to bravery. They have the option of stopping or continuing, “She stated.

Working together to assist victims

Thicha stated that if the victims choose to fight, the social mechanism must not isolate them but rather accommodate and protect them throughout the process.

In her experience, she has witnessed both civil society organizations and state agencies working together to assist these victims.

“If state agencies see civil society organizations as allies, we will be able to recognize our strengths and work together to help people,” Thicha said.

The three panelists demanded that the Ministry of Education take this matter seriously. Some of their recommendations include changing the school evaluation system and allowing students, parents, and the community to evaluate their teaching staff.

Thicha believes that students should be taught and empowered about their rights at school.

“If children know and can think for themselves, no teacher can make ridiculous threats like not giving them points or failing them in class [to force them to do things],” Thicha explained.

In response to the rape case, the former Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan established a centre to protect students who have been sexually abused, with the Hotline 1579 available to assist victims.

Jaded questioned the usefulness of this centre and the hotline, arguing that this mechanism should be neutral and include members of civil society organizations and academics to prevent perpetrators from being helped by their people.

Protection and welfare of students

The panelists also agreed that the centre only resolves issues at the end. Over 8,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org requesting that the Ministry of Education join the victims as complainants against the perpetrators to protect the welfare of students.

A network of 92 Thai organizations that protect women and children signed on to the petition.

The campaign also calls for harsh disciplinary actions against those found guilty and for the ministry to develop preventive measures and educate teachers about child protection and gender equality.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong stated that the ministry had reiterated the importance of ensuring the safety of students in schools, which is one of seven “Quick Win” measures to combat all forms of sexual abuse, bullying, and other violence.

Ms. Trinuch stated that the ministry had established a Moe Safety Centre, which allows anyone to report incidents that affect or threaten the safety of students and educational personnel via its Moe Safety Centre app, website “moesafetycenter.com,” Line ID “@MOESafetyCenter,” and phone number 02-126-6565.

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