BANGKOK – Child rights activists have urged the government to come up with more effective mechanisms to empower and amplify the voices of victims so rapists will be brought to justice.
The activists from various gender and child rights organisations voiced their demands Sunday at a seminar titled “The Rise of Rape and Violence: Wake Up Thailand!” in the wake of the alleged gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Phangnga’s Takua Thung district between May and October last year.
The seminar, attended by about 100 participants, was held in Bangkok.
The mother of the girl — who is staying in a safehouse with her daughter — early this month told authorities that at least 40 men from the village of Ban Koh Raet in tambon Lo-yung were involved in several episodes in which her daughter was raped. Earlier three suspects were arrested and indicted for rape.
They were later released on bail. On Saturday, police detained eight more suspects in connection with the alleged rape.
However, the gang rape case has spurred controversy and heated debate. The family of the victim is facing a backlash from many people in the village.
Ticha Na Nakorn, director of Kanjanapisek Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Boys of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection under the Justice Ministry, said the government needs to encourage victims of sexual assault to speak out by creating a mechanism that would ensure their safety and empower them.
“They need to feel safe if they are to speak out and alert authorities about what has happened. Also we must ensure that perpetrators will be brought to justice,” she said.
“This will cause a ripple effect that will deter other people from committing sexual harassment crimes. Otherwise perpetrators will feel free to commit these crimes.”
Ms Ticha suggested victim and witness protection processes must also be enhanced, such as giving victims new identities and providing them a means to start a new life.
She said if the government comes up with more effective mechanisms to amplify the voices of rape survivors, more rapists will be brought to justice.
She said several perpetrators of rapes were not brought to justice because they intimidated rape victims, making it difficult to get the victims to speak out against their perpetrators.
“Not only are victims traumatised by the assault, but when they reveal what happened to them, they have to bear pressure from people around them and authorities in the criminal justice system. Sometimes the process can make them feel even worse,” she said.
“Rape and violence will be on the rise if we fail to bring justice in this case [involving the 14-year-old]. If we fail in this high-profile case, even more people will line up to take sexual advantage of vulnerable people such as children and women. We will see more and more victims,” Ms Ticha said.
Techa Meechai, representative of the Lawyers Network for Children and Youth, said that although there are many laws that deal with sexual harassment cases, these laws have flaws and can do little in reality.
He said the process of seeking help is not easily accessible and victims usually don’t know where to turn.
By Patpon Sabpaitoon